We are excited to announce that Outrage + Optimism is now part of the TED Audio Collective. This news represents an exciting continuation of the collaboration between our organizations, which began with our strategic partnership with TED Countdown.

The TED Audio Collective is a curated collection of podcasts sharing ideas on a range of subjects, including psychology, business, and design. On TED Climate you’ll hear talks from some of the leading minds in the field on crisis solutions, challenges, and insights that give listeners the information and hope we need to keep fighting.

You can view the full list of TED Audio Collective podcasts here, and listen to them wherever you get your podcasts.
Outrage + Optimism logo

Behind the scenes on the politics, investments and actions meeting the climate crisis head on

Global Optimism logo

Stubborn optimism is a choice. Join us in tackling the climate crisis with conviction, scale and speed


217: Greening Shipping

Watermark of logo

About this episode

Ahoy!  With Christiana at the helm this week we’re raising our anchor and charting a course into the fascinating and complex world of greening shipping. 

The shipping industry can feel removed from our daily lives. With images of huge cargo ships criss-crossing the oceans, distant foreign ports and international regulatory bodies with unfamiliar acronyms like the IMO or the GMF, you might even ask yourself: why should I care? 

We’ll hear how 90% of what we consume, wear and use in our homes comes to us via a ship.  And how the predominant use of dirty fossil fuels means that the shipping industry currently contributes around 3% of the world’s global CO2 - that’s the same as the whole of Germany or Japan’s emissions. 

But not any more! Christiana and her crew of shipping experts take you on a journey to explore how the shipping industry is at the forefront of an exciting transition to Net Zero, and will explain how greening the maritime sector could help us address the climate emergency.

Christiana has been a long and passionate advocate for reform in the shipping industry. With the help of guests such as AP Moller-Maersk’s Senior Vice President, Morten Christiansen; Alejandra Teran from Costa Rica’s Sailcargo; Eric Leveridge, Campaign Lead at Ship it Zero; Ambassador Albon Ishoda, Republic of the Marshall Islands Presidential Special Envoy for Maritime Decarbonisation, Dr Lucy Gilliam, Seas at Risk, Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO, MaerskMcKinney Moller Centre, Cleo Bierneza, Third Officer at Swire Shipping and many more, this deep dive episode will hope to leave no doubt in our listeners’ minds as to why shipping’s path to Net Zero is integral to our current and future life on the planet. 

How these ships are fuelled now and in the future, why the recent International Maritime Organisation decision was history in the making, how the people working on these ships are treated to ensure a just transition as well as the role that we, the consumers, can play, are all questions that Christiana and her guests tackle during this special episode.

Do let us know what you think!



Alejandra Terán, Chief Purpose Marketing Officer at Sailcargo
LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Ambassador Albon Ishoda, Republic of the Marshall Islands Presidential Special Envoy for Maritime Decarbonisation
Twitter | LinkedIn 

Bo Cerup-Simonsen, Chief Executive Officer of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping
LinkedIn | LinkedIn for Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping

Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist, Institute for the Environment at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Cleo Bierneza, Third Officer at Swire Shipping

Eric Leveridge, Campaign Lead at Ship It Zero

Ingrid Irigoyen, Associate Director, Ocean and Climate, Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program & President and CEO, Zero Emission Maritime Buyers Alliance
Twitter | LinkedIn 

Dr Lucy Gilliam, Senior Shipping Policy Officer at Seas at Risk
Twitter | LinkedIn 
Seas At Risk
Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn 

Morten Bo Christiansen, Senior Vice President, Head of Energy Transition at A.P. Moller - Maersk

Learn more about the Paris Agreement.

It’s official, we’re a TED Audio Collective Podcast - Proof!
Check out more podcasts from The TED Audio Collective

Please follow us on social media!
Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Full Transcript

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana Figueres: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.

Paul Dickinson: [00:00:17] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:18] This week we do a deep dive on global shipping and ask whether the shipping industry can be compatible with a net zero future. Thanks for being here. 

So this is a different episode for us listeners. Paul and I are going to be stepping off in a minute and handing over to Christiana, who's going to lead you into this deep dive on shipping.

Christiana Figueres: [00:00:56] Deep dive on shipping. Oh, no, please don't tell me we already have all of these massive maritime ship. Yeah. Oh, no. All these analogies. Oh no no no no no.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:05] It leads itself to a deluge of.

Paul Dickinson: [00:01:07] Christiana will lead the flotilla of of of insights. And yes, it doesn't stop now. Just we'll go on forever.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:14] I'm going to channel the listener channel, and say that this channel their channel. Yeah. Thank you. That there may be some. We'll need a little ding every time we do one..

Paul Dickinson: [00:01:25] Every time. There'd be a lot of ding ding.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:28] Now some listeners may be thinking to themselves, you know what, maybe I'll sit this week out. I'm not sure that I'm that interested in shipping. Why should they not sit this one out? Because I know, Christiana. I've known you for a long time, and I know that you have always had a passion for this issue, and you know that it is critical and it's fascinating. So tell us why.

Christiana Figueres: [00:01:47] Well, and I also know that when I suggested that we do this, as both you and Paul rolled your eyes, right.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:55] I mean, I would deny rolling eyes, but there was a bit of me that was yes, it's it can be hard to generate the enthusiasm for something that feels like it's not that relevant to your life, but it is relevant.

Paul Dickinson: [00:02:07] When I was young, people talked about the jet set, but I'm not sure people talked about the ship set. But you go ahead. Yeah.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:14] Well, so here is my challenge to the two of you. Let's see what you think. By the end of this episode, I want to know, on a scale of roll eyes , a scale of 1 to 10, how did you really roll your eyes? Or did you actually . Load More
Paul Dickinson: [00:02:33] Is it a high tide or a low tide, right? Yeah.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:35] Ding ding.

Speaker4: [00:02:36] Ding. Or did you.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:38] Actually learn something that is new? That is fresh, that is fun, and that can be part of your next, um, trivia quiz with your friends. Okay, okay.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:02:49] I mean, Paul.

Paul Dickinson: [00:02:51] Look, playing devil's advocate, I could say shipping to me is just, you know, big cargo ships and distant ports, faraway lands. Well, then it kind of sounds interesting, but this long list of confusing industry related acronyms, the IMO, the GMF, why should we care what really happens in shipping?

Christiana Figueres: [00:03:10] Christiana okay, well, first of all, as you both know, I live right in front of the ocean. I absolutely love the ocean. I love the way I.

Paul Dickinson: [00:03:20] By the way, I live right in front of the ocean and I absolutely love the ocean.

Christiana Figueres: [00:03:23] Okay, well, there we go. Okay. So why are you asking me then? So I love the ocean.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:03:29] But the ocean and the ships are different things, right? You don't necessarily love ships. No no no.

Christiana Figueres: [00:03:33] No no wait wait wait. Let's expand.

Paul Dickinson: [00:03:34] One gives meaning to the other. Try ships without ocean.

Christiana Figueres: [00:03:37] Well exactly, try ships without ocean. So I love ocean life. And anything that is actually affecting ocean life negatively is a concern of mine. I love snorkeling, I love scuba diving. I actually love everything that has to do with the ocean. So first I wanted to do this just because I love the ocean. Secondly, international shipping is what I would call the most hidden emission sector that we have. Why is it most hidden? First, it is not seen by the Climate Convention. It is not regulated just like international aviation. It is not regulated by the Climate….

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:04:25] So it doesn't fall inside any country emissions. Right?

Christiana Figueres: [00:04:28] It's completely that's why it doesn't fall because it's international aviation and international maritime shipping. So it's not regulated by the Climate Convention. It's not wasn't regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. It's not regulated by the Paris Agreement. It is completely outside of those boundaries. So it is not seen by the main bulk of climate regulations and agreements. Secondly, it tends to not be seen by governments either because it is a very private sector dominated, dominated sector. Sorry for that alliteration. Thirdly, it is also not very well seen by citizens or customers because aviation, which is the other, the sister transport sector -  aviation is more seen by us because aviation is more used for and by passengers, but shipping is not that frequently used by passengers. Sometimes, yes, but not very frequently. Shipping is definitely much more dedicated to cargo. And in fact, here's your first little trivia piece, okay, for you to remember. 90% of everything that we use, consume comes to us via a ship. And so despite that fact, we are very, very blind to shipping. And it is, of course, of all of the hard-to-abate sectors that I love to call have-to-abate sectors because we can't leave anyone out. It is one of the hardest to abate sectors because it's about changing fuel, changing ship technology, changing ship design, changing the port infrastructure. In fact, it's even about changing the cargo, which provides a substantial part of the income to the shipping industry. So for all of those reasons, I think we can at least dedicate about one episode to greening the shipping sector.

Paul Dickinson: [00:06:41] Yeah.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:06:42] All right. That's it. Very, very good arguments there for Christiana. Very compelling.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:06:45] Well, thank you for me.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:06:46] Thank you. Yeah. No. Very good. 

 Christiana Figueres:And have I convinced you?  [00:06:49] Or not really.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:06:50] Well, I mean, years ago, I remember a friend of mine invited me to sail across the channel on his little sailing boat, and I went across. And the most terrifying part was in the middle of the night, when you go through what's called the shipping separation zone, where all the big tankers come up towards Rotterdam and the other ports. And of course, you're in this tiny little boat. It's night and one comes over the horizon and this thing is vast with thousands of containers. It's absolutely enormous and terrifying. Goes in front of you, and then you think, well, you'll now nip across, but before you get there, another one comes and then another one comes and they're like two minutes apart from each other. It's the first, like visceral visual experience I've had of just how much is coming through our oceans. So totally with you now, do you want to give us a quick sense of the stories you're going to tell? And then we should go to the episode? Yeah.

Paul Dickinson: [00:07:32] Because, you know, you've launched a powerful argument here, Christiana, but we need to set sail on the episode. So ding ding.

Christiana Figueres: [00:07:37] Ding ding ding ding. Okay. Ding ding. Yeah. So we thought that we would first give our listeners a sense of, sorry here, of the stormy weather that we're in. Ding ding.

Paul Dickinson: [00:07:54] I'm loving it. You can't stop.

Christiana Figueres: [00:07:57] Because it's not so easy to transform this sector, right? It is responsible for almost 3% of global emissions, but it's not going to be easy to do. So we first thought we would give an overview by by interviewing quite a few of the different stakeholders that are committed to this. But then we're going to go into just how really challenging this is, okay…. everywhere from building a completely sustainable cargo ship to actually being one of the crew members on these ships. And how does this impact the individuals that will be most directly affected. So it is quite a big view of this.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:08:42] Atlantic or ocean crossing to get us from here to there. But looking forward to seeing you on the other side. There you go. Right. So Christiana, totally with you now on on the fact this is necessary. But just a quick question before we get into the episode that we should kick off with, why are we doing it now? What's significant about this moment?

 Christiana Figueres: [00:08:57] Well, we're doing it now for two reasons. Two things that are happening. First, in July, the International Maritime Organization meeting that was not able to reach the decision that we will explain in 2018, actually was able to reach this decision with a lot of difficulty, but it was reached in July. The decision that actually will take the shipping sector to net zero by 2050. So very exciting to hear how that happened, but also because as we release this episode, the Global Maritime Forum is meeting in Greece. It is their annual summit and they are actually looking at, okay, so now we have this decision. Now how does that get implemented? So that summit is literally called, What Now; From Ambition to Action. And so we thought this is a very good moment to release this episode, so that those who are not going to the Global Maritime Forum can understand what is going on.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:09:59] Perfect. All right. So let's get into it. Christiana, over to you. We'll see you on the other side okay.

Christiana Figueres: [00:10:05] Well great guys. Thank you for giving me permission to do this. Let's see how we do at the end of it. But we're going to start with a conversation with Dr. Lucy Gilliam, who is the Shipping Policy Officer from an NGO called Seas At Risk.

Dr. Lucy Gilliam: [00:10:44] In solving this challenge, we're going to really have to think about one. Do we need to ship that thing? You know, what are ships carrying? They carry, you know, 90% of global trade. But are those trades essential? Can we get things closer? Do we need to ship in the first place? 

The next things that need to happen is changing the propulsion mechanism. So this is not just about new fuels to replace fossil fuels. There are lots of options on the table. Some of them are better than others. You know, we're talking about things like biofuels, methanol, ammonia, etcetera. But we can also think about electrification as far as possible. This is a much more efficient use of energy from renewables. And we can look at technologies like wind on board where we're making direct use of renewable energy. 

Ports. They need to work out what fuels they need to provide for their customers, the shipping industry. They also need to be able to handle those safely. Make sure the populations around the ports are not being impacted, and we need to make sure that we train the workforce of the future. 

So, you know, these are really important steps to decarbonize the sector and to green the industry.

Christiana Figueres: [00:12:03] To power all these transformations, Lucy believes that there is a particular type of fuel out there that will make shipping fit for the future, and it's not the type of fuel you might think.

Dr. Lucy Gilliam: [00:12:16] There's a little saying that: the fuel of the future is collaboration, and it's actually coming together with different minds, different groups, people with different expertise and being like, right, we're going to try and solve this problem.

Christiana Figueres: [00:12:29] One of the companies that is right at the helm is AP Moller-Maersk, also known by most people as simply Maersk. You will have seen their name on the side of their enormous container ships and enormous containers. And we were fortunate to be able to ask Morten Christensen, Senior Vice President and head of decarbonization at Maersk, what their plan is.

Morten Christensen: [00:12:56] We are part of this problem, but we have also decided that we want to be part of the solution.

Christiana Figueres: [00:13:14] Let's just get very clear about a fact. Maersk has hundreds of container ships in their fleet, and these ships emit about 34 million tonnes of CO2 per year. That is more emissions than the entire country of Denmark, where Morten's company is headquartered.

Morten Christensen: [00:13:39] So what we have done is that we have taken a good look at our business. We've taken a look at technologies, how they are available, how we expect them to develop. And based on that, we believe that we can be net zero by 2040. And that's, of course, a tall order when you operate 740 container ships. What we have concluded is that we have found a couple of fuel pathways that we think are promising. All new ships that we buy from now on will have the ability to burn the green fuels. 

Just yesterday we had a name-giving event here in Copenhagen where Laura Maersk, she made it all her way on her maiden journey from Korea. So that's basically halfway around the world sailing on green methanol. So so we think that's a huge milestone.

Christiana Figueres: [00:14:22] Morten explained that one of the most significant challenges at the moment is that big companies like his can't buy enough green fuel, because there is not yet the amount needed available on the market.

Morten Christensen: [00:14:38] We used to have this chicken and egg type situation where, you know, no one was building the green ships because there were no green fuels, but then nobody produced any green fuels because there were no green ships to consume it. And we decided that, now, let's try and break that and at least get some demand out in the market. So that's why we started ordering these ships two and a half years ago. The orders we have now already represents around 8 to 9% of our fleet. And what we have also seen very, very positively, is that five of the large container liners that we compete with, they have also started ordering these methanol ships that can sail on green methanol. So there's really momentum on the hardware side. And now we just need to scale. Well, just? It's easier said than done, but at least there's a huge demand signal in the market now. So that means it's really not a chicken and egg situation anymore, it's a matter of scaling the fuels and doing that fast and at a price that we can afford to pay.

Christiana Figueres: [00:15:34] Now, there has been criticism of green methanol technology and much discussion about which fuel will work best to really power the energy transition for the shipping sector. We asked Morten what his view is on this discussion.

Morten Christensen: [00:15:51] A lot of journalists, they like to make it into a kind of a competition, right? Oh, is it a methanol, is it ammonia and who will be the winner? And who will be the loser? This is not a competition about fuels!  I mean, the only competition that we have is actually the race against time, you know, to get it done fast enough. And when we speak to our peers in the industry, they actually see it the same way. This uncertainty cannot paralyze people so that we don't act. 

I sometimes actually use an example from the maritime world about this whole fuel debate, because if you have a ship that is leaking, you know, that's a pretty serious situation, right? And what happens is not that the captain calls for a workshop on the bridge, and then you take out some post-it notes and you try to figure out which might be the best pump of future generations that could actually be suited to pump the vessel clear. No, what you do is you find a pump that works and you start pumping. Right? And it's an emergency that we are in - right? - with the climate. Anybody with any respect of science should know that. And that's why -  stop this thing about, oh well this is a little bit better and we should wait for that. And please don't bet on that… because it gives all the people all the wrong reasons to do nothing.

Christiana Figueres: [00:17:02] Do you think that greening the shipping industry is fair across the board? What about smaller shipping companies that might struggle to afford the transition if both the boats and the fuels are more expensive?

Morten Christensen: [00:17:18] So it's much more difficult for the smaller companies to do this, but I mean you have to start somewhere. And I think it is only reasonable and fair that the big companies take the first steps and take the most risk in the beginning, because we can much better shoulder it. And that is exactly what we are seeing. I will say, though, that we are also seeing ship owners and other segments of shipping, so tankers and ferries and car carriers and so on, who are beginning to order these ships as well.

Christiana Figueres: [00:17:47] Well, clearly showing inspiring leadership there. Our thanks to Morten Christiansen from AP Moller-Maersk. 

Now let's just remember that shipping, just like aviation, belongs in a bucket that is known as the hard-to-abate sectors. They're known as hard to abate because of the intensity of the energy that they move. And up until now, it is only fossil fuels that have been able to deliver the intensity of energy that those sectors need. What is exciting, of course, is that we're beginning to see a transition in which even those sectors that need energy intensity are actually being able to be greened. 

Christine Loh, who's actually a good friend of this podcast, is a Member of the Board of the Global Maritime Forum meeting in Greece as this goes out to the air. She is the former Minister of Environment of Hong Kong and a Professor of Science and Technology at Hong Kong University. She explains some of these difficulties.

 Christine Loh: [00:19:04] To decarbonize shipping is actually a very, very tall order. And right now, even today, although there's a lot of interest to decarbonize, it is essentially still a fossil fuel industry. 

So to really decarbonize, we do need many stakeholders in the port area, in fuel suppliers, in shipbuilders, ship owners, charterers, insurers. In a way, everybody needs to think about how they can contribute to the process. 

Why is this a hard-to-abate area? It's because so many players, so many stakeholders need to be involved. So if you are a shipping company and let's say you're a you own a number of ships or you manage a number of ships, can you get the fuels, you know, do you have the financing to retrofit your ship or to buy a new ship, you know, and when, at what stage are we going to have both fuel and ship available for non-fossil fuels, moving cargo around? I mean, those are still really open questions. 

But I'll say one thing that is full of optimism, which is people are now thinking and they kind of recognize that they have to somehow work together to think about really how to do it.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:20:25] Both maritime and aviation emissions are usually not all of them, but most of them occur outside the boundaries of a nation. They are international, either in international waters or in international sky and air. And the Convention, the Climate Convention upon which the Kyoto Protocol is built and upon which the Paris Agreement is built, is very clear that countries are responsible for their nationally produced greenhouse gas emissions.

 Christine Loh: [00:21:03] It's kind of a little bit of a ‘nobody's business’. The IMO, which is the International Maritime Organization, it is one organization, but it actually doesn't control the whole ambit of the maritime sector.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:21:18] Which then of course puts a lot of pressure on the IMO, because it is the only international organization that can begin to regulate international maritime emissions. The Paris Agreement cannot and the Climate Convention cannot. This is squarely in the responsibility of the International Maritime Organization. 

I was there at the headquarters in London, on the banks of the Thames River, way back in 2018, when countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gases of the shipping industry by 50% by 2050, as compared to the levels of 2008. I was there by invitation of Kaveh Guilanpour, who was the brilliant negotiator from the Marshall Islands, who honestly did a fantastic job in bringing the IMO as far as they got and they could get in 2018. But both he and I were disappointed that we did not have an even more ambitious agreement. So that is what makes this year's decision of the IMO all the more exciting, because, as one could reasonably argue, that that decision brings the shipping industry in line with the rest of decarbonisation efforts in other sectors. And of course, it is not surprising that that historic decision made headlines around the world.

Headlines: [00:23:13] World shipping body votes on historic emissions cuts to curb warming.

Headlines: [00:23:16] The global shipping industry has agreed to reduce planet warming gases to net zero by around 2050, but critics say the deal is fatally flawed.

Headlines: [00:23:27] London the United Nations group that oversees the global shipping industry, agreed Friday, to slash the sector's greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades in an attempt to limit future global warming.

Headlines: [00:23:41] Countries adopt mid-century greenhouse gas emissions goals.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:23:45] So. Wow. Okay, so hold on. What happened in this meeting and why are the results so important? In order to explain this, we spoke to some people who were actually there. First up, Dr. Lucy Gilliam, from whom we heard earlier, who traveled to the summit from Brussels, where she works for the NGO Seas At Risk.

 Dr. Lucy Gilliam: [00:24:08] It was absolutely fantastic being at the climate summit and at the International Maritime Organization this summer, because there was huge amount of energy and they had never been so busy, and the rooms were full and in the corridors there was discussion taking place. There was so much happening.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:24:24] NGO representatives like Lucy came to the meeting with high hopes for new green targets for shipping.

 Dr. Lucy Gilliam: [00:24:31] So we, as the NGO movement termed this the Shipping Climate Summit. And it was negotiations on the rules around the use of fuels that ships are burning, their efficiency, and setting targets for 20, 30, 2040 and 2050 to decarbonize and and help us get to zero emissions for the industry.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:24:51] One of the key negotiators was Ambassador Ishoda, Ambassador of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Getting the nearly 200 countries at the summit to agree was not only a massive accomplishment, but also an urgent calling for Ambassador Ishoda because the Marshall Islands is at real risk of sea level rise driven by climate change.

Ambassador Ishoda: [00:25:15] You know, my country is two meters above sea level, and current projections continue to paint the worst picture for us by 2050. It's been predicted that many of our islands would suffer catastrophic climate impacts.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:25:32] Ambassador Ishoda saw the IMO meeting as a rare window of opportunity.

Ambassador Ishoda: [00:25:39] It was a watershed opportunity to actually get the community of shippers, all those involved in IMO, to come back to the table and redraw a strategy that would allow for a 1.5 target from shipping.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:25:58] It was critical that smaller countries, island countries, developing countries were able to transition at the same pace as other wealthier, more developed nations.

Ambassador Ishoda: [00:26:10] In our proposal, we called  very explicitly for the equitable transition, leaving no states behind in this transition of international shipping. That's important because to date, only the rich countries are able to afford the transition of international shipping.

 Christiana Figueres: [00:26:34] For those who either participate in or are aware of international negotiations. It will come as no surprise that these talks took place over a fortnight and they were very tense and intense. But on Friday the 7th of July, finally a consensus was reached among the delegates that shipping was on a new path to net zero. To help us understand what this decision actually means, I was joined by Bo Cerup-Simonsen. Bo heads up the Maersk Mc-kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping. Okay, sorry, that's a mouthful, but this organization works with players across the entire sector to decarbonise shipping. We dove straight into that fateful IMO moment. Bo, Friday, the 7th of July of 2023. I cannot tell you how excited I am about that decision that was reached by the IMO. A very, very hard fought decision that lasted for a long time. I would love for you to explain the importance of that IMO decision.

Bo Cerup-Simonsen: [00:27:53] The importance is, is of the highest caliber. The importance is absolutely critical for us. The IMO deal that was just struck is agreed amongst everybody in the room. So all 175 member countries have now agreed to elevate the ambition level to implement technical and economic measures, meaning like carbon pricing type mechanisms and fuel standard mechanisms, and have also agreed to a roadmap on the regulatory process to go from 2023 to agreement of the detailed measures in 25, to enter into force in 27. So everything is now in place in order for the shipping industry to get a truly global regulatory mechanism in place that will drive the emissions down to zero by around 2050. Really remarkable.

Christiana Figueres: [00:28:53] Bow really stressed that this needs to be a transition that happens at the same pace for everyone.

Bo Cerup-Simonsen: [00:29:02] Really important, and I'd like to particularly emphasize the global South and developing countries, because the headline to all of this is just an equitable transition.

Christiana Figueres: [00:29:18] Ingrid Irigoyen, Associate Director in Ocean and Climate at the Aspen Institute, has been monitoring the IMO's negotiations over the years.

Ingrid Irigoyen: [00:29:29] The IMO, after several weeks and several months and honestly, years of debate and negotiation made it clear to the sector that decarbonization is the future, that this sector must be a zero emission sector by the middle of this century, and that if your audience can believe it, that was actually in doubt before the meeting.

Christiana Figueres: [00:29:52] Now, not all parties there were entirely happy with the result, particularly because the agreement was a set of targets the industry was aiming for rather than being legally binding, as Dr Lucy Gilliam explains.

Dr Lucy Gilliam: [00:30:09] And the worry is that this kind of gives people get out of jail free cards of like, oh, we didn't quite we didn't make it. But, you know, there's nothing binding in this strategy. And we would have liked to have seen those be robust binding targets. Nonetheless, I think it does send a very clear signal to industry of the trajectory that we're aiming for.

Christiana Figueres: [00:30:29] Ingrid Irigoyen echoes this.

Ingrid Irigoyen: [00:30:32] And so now what we need to see over the next two years is very concerted efforts to put in place measures, actual, enforceable measures that will enable the sector to make this transition in a way that really does reward the first movers, the companies that are making investments now in decarbonization, ensuring that they are on an even playing field, and that we are addressing some of those issues that some of the developing nations, particularly small island developing nations, have about how the cost structure of shipping will change as new solutions come on line.

Christiana Figueres: [00:31:11] In the spirit of fairness, small island developing nations in the IMO meeting made a very interesting proposal: shipping companies that continued to use fossil fuels will pay a carbon levy, or let's understand it as a price on pollution. $100 for every tonne of carbon they emit. The proceeds from that levy could then help more vulnerable countries and communities adapt to climate change. Ambassador Ishoda explains this to us.

Ambassador Ishoda: [00:31:43] The Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands and other Pacific countries submitted a universal levy proposal as part of the mechanisms to see how to transition shipping, and that universal levy would call for at least $100 per tonnage on bunker with shipping. And the idea was that this would be an incentive to drive the decarbonization effort.

Christiana Figueres: [00:32:15] Okay, friends. So reflecting three months later on that IMO moment, while I am delighted by the outcome, I want to better understand what the idea of a just and equitable transition means in practice on the ground for individuals that are directly affected. 

We know that a just transition refers to all those people who are employed to work in the shipping industry. So how can we reskill those people to make sure that they can work on those new ships with new hardware and new fuels? And if they cannot, how are they compensated and how are they protected? 

Seafarers or sailors is one particular group who will be directly impacted by the changes: they will need to be trained and supported as these changes are implemented on board the vessels. The Philippines is the world's main supplier of sea-based workers. One in every four seafarers or sailors is Filipino, and so they are one of the countries that are most impacted. We were delighted to be joined by the brilliant Cleo Bierneza, a Filipino seafarer, to see how this transition will affect her and her colleagues.

Cleo Bierneza: [00:33:48] My name is Cleo Bierneza. . I'm a seafarer from the Philippines. I am a member of the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen's Union of the Philippines. My job as a third officer is doing the 8 to 12 watch, and I'm also in charge of the life saving and firefighting equipments on board, or any other task assigned to me by the captain of the ship.

Christiana Figueres: [00:34:09] Cleo, could you give us a little peek into your experience of life working on board a ship?

Cleo Bierneza: [00:34:17] Working on board ships makes me feel proud because of the unique experience that we have. We're doctors, navigators, firefighters, and we're also physically and mentally strong. Then I'm scared at times because most of the jobs have risk. And of course, we cannot deny the fact that we're alone, sometimes away from our families. And you're just alone there.

Christiana Figueres: [00:34:40] Last year, Cleo was at COP27 in Egypt. While she was there, she learned more about what's on the horizon for shipping and how a just and equitable transition might impact her life and the lives of her fellow crewmates.

Cleo Bierneza: [00:34:58] I attended the COP27, so we discussed about this green fuels and all. I think the shifting for alternative fuels for greener shipping will require different skills for the seafarers, because we will be handling a different kind of fuels and the changes will include the digitalization and automation. There will be new kinds of ship, there will be new engines, new standards, new complicated machineries that will need to be operated. Seafarers can adapt easily. They just need trainings, like proper trainings, for this upskilling.

Christiana Figueres: [00:35:34] As yet, Cleo and her crewmates haven't seen the new engines, the new machinery or received updated training.

Cleo: [00:35:45] Especially in my company, we don't have yet this greener fuel like so no training yet. On my side, my fellow crewmates on board, they don't have any ideas. They think of it is as just like a dream for now because we're not having trainings. For me personally, when I hear the word like additional training, I'm always worried about the cost for our seafarers because not all trainings that we have are free. So first is cost, then next is the time. Because sometimes we just spend vacation for only two months. Most of that we will spend training, so there will be no more time to spend to our families or friends.

Christiana Figueres: [00:36:23] And for the workers like Cleo, who will be at the front lines of this major transition. Their concerns are not only the time and expense of additional training. There are the major risks that are involved, particularly with the refueling or bunkering. These are risks that honestly aren't fully understood yet.

Cleo Bierneza: [00:36:45] As of now, we are currently familiar with the traditional fuels. When we do this refueling, we are already familiar with how to handle it, how to transfer, what to do in case of spillage and all. But with the new fuels such as methanol, LNG, gas, ammonia and hydrogen, we don't have any idea how we will do this refueling. And if something happened, what will be the emergency preparedness? If there's a leak, what you will do, will you run what you do? What are the risks? Yeah. So we don't know. For me it's very dangerous.

Christiana Figueres: [00:37:22] There are risks as well as opportunities in this transition. And it may well be a wise thing that those working on board ships have a place at the table where these decisions are being made, as Cleo so eloquently explains.

Cleo Bierneza: [00:37:45] I had this very good idea during the COP27. Usually the one having the meetings are the governments, representatives, unions. They're not including the workers. They talk about farming, but they don't have farmers. So it's really good that they start now to include the workers itself, regarding the topic. For me, I just want to remind again, like the governments, the ship owners, employers, that when this transition takes place, they should not forget about us. The workers that are frequently forgotten not only invest in things like technologies, new ships, but they should also invest in us because we're the one that keeps the trade going.

Christiana Figueres: [00:38:33] The amazing Cleo Bierneza. 

One smaller company that is really leaning into these challenging solutions and doing amazing things happens to be a company in the wild and wonderful homeland of Costa Rica. Sorry to all listeners, but Costa Rica is also going to be a part of this episode because we host this amazing shipyard and they are building the first wooden sailing cargo vessel in the world. They're called Sailcargo. It is on the west coast of Costa Rica in a place called Punta Morales, from which they will launch once their boat is ready. They're doing incredible things with a holistic view of shipbuilding and the sustainability of shipbuilding. They only use renewable ship materials, and they are seen as leaders in the clean shipping movement. So shall we take a little trip out to that shipyard?

Alejandra Teran: [00:40:03] The shipyard, which I'm standing in right now, is a very special place. It's 25°C on a beautiful sunny day, and the smell of freshly treated wood brushes your nose. As you continue walking, feeling the ocean breeze. You encounter the raising structure of a wooden ark. The ship is about half a street block long. It is the result of over 200,000 hours of work. It is simply breathtaking.

Christiana Figueres: [00:40:38] Alejandra Teran, Chief Purpose Marketing Officer at Sailcargo, talking about their beautiful new ship. Ali. Hola. Hola. Hello.

Alejandra Teran: [00:40:48] Hello.

Christiana Figueres: [00:40:49] Alejandra… Please tell us how Sailcargo is leading the way in clean, sustainable shipping.

Alejandra Teran: [00:40:57] What Sailcargo does is build and operate a fleet of zero emission vessels to transport cargo. We have a strong desire to prove the value of clean shipping. And it all starts with one ship. But our vision is to complete a bigger fleet of sailing cargo vessels.

Christiana Figueres: [00:41:21] So I laid the current ship that you're working on is called Ceiba, I think, which is the name of a beautiful tree in Costa Rica. Tell us about the ship, what she built from. How is she powered? What is so special about Ceiba?

Alejandra Teran: [00:41:39] Ceiba is built out of sustainable wood completely. And the vision is building this largest wooden sailing cargo vessel in the world with traditional naval methods, but also combining it with renewable modern technologies. For example, this vessel will have electric motors that will be charged, the batteries will be charged with the propellers, so the propellers will be placed in a certain direction when the ship is going at a certain speed. And this kinetic energy that's generated is going to charge the batteries of the boat. 

We always say it's the essence is a regenerative model. We use building methods which are the most sustainable ones. So we know that cutting a tree hurts and might seem, not the best idea, right? For every tree used in Ceiba, we plant 25. In this way we try to give nature more than we take. This is like the essence of what we believe in. If you consider that traditional metal ship, the lifespan could last in between 20 and 35 years, and then they are left abandoned in South Asia beaches, for example. And doing this shipbreaking that is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. On the other side, wooden ships can last even more than 100 years.

Christiana Figueres: [00:43:15] You know, Ali, I so loved the visit that I made to the shipyard itself. It doesn't feel like an industrial site. It feels like a community with people working there, living there. You have roots into the local community. It was just so different to any shipyard concept that I previously had.

Alejandra Teran: [00:43:38] Also, there's a permaculture garden where we plant the food that we eat, and we also support local communities with the food that we buy, with the wood scraps and the leftovers of the resources, we do different things.

Christiana Figueres: [00:43:56] I love this idea of using every single last little wood scrap. So as you look to the wider future, what  are the challenges we face in planting the seed for many more Sailcargos around the world?

Alejandra Teran: [00:44:13] The future that I see for Sailcargo is making a difference, impacting the world, connecting with companies and people that really want to clean their supply chain and their carbon footprint, and reducing the impact on the environment is what we are all in Sailcargo doing here. And we believe that we can generate a change by example and by what we're doing.

Christiana Figueres: [00:44:43] Alejandra, thank you so, so much. It's been a real pleasure being in conversation with you. And I cannot wait to see Ceiba sail off into the distance from Punta Morales. I am counting on you letting me know when you're going to sail, because I want to be there cheering you on from the shore.

Alejandra Teran [00:45:02] Amazing.

Christiana Figueres: [00:45:09] So what an inspiring side trip we had into that shipyard in Costa Rica and into that specific project that Alejandra so beautifully described for us. 

But here's the question - how do we make sure that other, much larger companies who transport a vast number of our goods, how do we make sure that they use cleaner, greener ships? Ship it Zero is a coalition of environmental and public health advocates, scientists, shipping experts and shoppers working together to get some of the largest companies in the world to commit to net zero emission shipping by 2030. We asked their campaign lead, Eric Leveridge, to explain what got them started.

Eric Leveridge: [00:46:00] The reason we started the Ship it Zero campaign is that we want people to understand the impact of global shipping, in the same way that people understand the climate impact of aviation.

Christiana Figueres: [00:46:13] Eric's work on climate actually has a personal motivation behind it.

Eric Leveridge: [00:46:18] I moved into my home during September of 2020 where here in Colorado, where I live, we had the largest wildfire on record, the Cameron Peak Fire. The first time I left my grocery store and my new community. It was 3:00 in the afternoon and the sky was bright red and ash was falling from the sky. 

So since that moment, I've known that I wanted to work on climate change. I was unfamiliar with the impact that global shipping has on climate change, but I am incredibly passionate about this campaign to hold corporations accountable for how they're contributing to the climate crisis.

Christiana Figueres: [00:47:09] So how do we hold businesses accountable?

Eric Leveridge: [00:47:15] When it comes to individual actions around shipping decarbonization, there are a number of things that individuals can do to try to have an impact. Look at our Ship it Zero Shipping Decarbonization Report Card. See who is taking action and support those companies to the extent that you have a choice. 
If you go to our website shipitzero.org, you can send letters to these companies urging them to decarbonize their operations. 

Our highest scoring retailer was IKEA. IKEA has taken a lot of concrete steps towards shipping decarbonization. They have a net zero goal of 2040. IKEA is active in working with ports. They actually have a staff person to negotiate around green fuel and decarbonization efforts at specific ports, which no other company is doing. They also have a lot more transparency around their air pollutants and are really committed to, or at least appear very committed to engaging in green programmes that are being offered right now, such as Eco Delivery through Maersk. 

The commitments that we've gotten in the past from companies like Ikea, Amazon and Target, there has been a combination of direct engagement with the company sustainability staff, but in conjunction with direct actions, protests, rallies at storefronts and company headquarters to really help these companies understand the urgency of the issue.

Christiana Figueres: [00:49:02] That was Eric Leveridge, Corporate Campaign Manager at Pacific Environment and Campaign Lead for Ship Zero. 

Okay, so that has been quite a journey through this very challenging subject. And Tom, I get to ask the question now, what do the two of you take from these conversations?

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:49:42] That was so fascinating. I learned so much there that I didn't know before… 

Christiana Figueres: [00:49:45] Wait, wait wait wait wait, is that a real statement or is that a facetious statement? Yeah.

Paul Dickinson: [00:49:50] Well, Tom, spotlight's on you.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:49:52] That is a real statement. That is a real statement. I thought it was really beautifully put together. Nicely done. Absolutely. Yeah.

Christiana Figueres: [00:49:58] So can we do our little rating now. Our roll eyes rating, both of you. On a scale of 1 to 10, how deeply are you rolling your eyes. How far?

Paul Dickinson: [00:50:09] Look, Christiana, what can I say? I mean, there was a huge cargo of information there and it's going to take a long time to unload. But I'm, I feel that I've, you know, embedded, if you will, taken on board a new perception of an absolutely critical piece of infrastructure that, as you pointed out at the start, has been outside of all of our negotiations, and we absolutely have to kind of include into our thinking, or else we're going to completely miss the boat.

Christiana Figueres: [00:50:35] Okay, okay. I don't know how many things you got there, but I think you definitely won. You definitely won. Okay. But now, Tom, what's your reflection?

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:50:46] I mean, that I was struck throughout on just how how I have completely ignored in large part in just my day-to-day thinking around solutions, this enormous sector. It doesn't appear, as you said in our policy design instruments, we don't see it a lot of the time, it's not visible to us. And actually, not only is it so consequential now, but just the trajectory in terms of where it might be in the future, make it so significant. So I think it's something we need all to be much more aware of as we go forward. So very nice.

Paul Dickinson: [00:51:13] Hugely exciting to think about this extraordinary sector, so big in scale, and the idea that the fuel of the future is collaboration. I think that could apply to any number of sectors that we might look at. And maybe it's like the the narrative of the meta response to climate change, but very particularly in shipping, which is of course international and relies on on that.

I think I remember I don't remember because I'm not that old, but the entire world's trade was run on renewable wind power, right? The first steamship came in France in 1783. So if you think about the gigantic global trading that was going on prior to 1783, it was all wind powered. So exciting to see this amazing development in Costa Rica and just the most beautiful image of the wind that blows the ship, turning the propellers, charging the batteries such that when we get to the Doldrums or whatever, then you just switch back on the electric and, you know, using wind as a kind of double bubble way to propel is incredibly exciting. 

And then finally, I was deeply moved, I would say, by the small island states coming forward, talking about a universal levy of $100 a tonne on, on, on bunker oil, you know, the greenhouse gas emissions from these heavy fuels. That's exactly the kind of initiative that could support the adaptation. And, you know, and of course, the mitigation, but the adaptation that small island states so desperately need and it's carried, as you said, at the very start, Christiana, you know, 90% of everything we buy comes on ships. So it's a diffuse way for us all to fund the most vulnerable. I thought that was a genius bit of policy proposal.

Christiana Figueres: [00:53:00] Yeah, I so agree with that, Paul. And I'm so glad that you that you bring us back to the origins of maritime transport, right? Wind - and how quickly we went from wind to fossil fuels and then got ourselves completely stuck into this mental paradigm that maritime transport has to be fossil fuels. And I think I would, you know, not be amiss if I say most people think that we're really stuck with fossil fuels as the fuel for, for maritime. And most people cannot believe that we would actually ever turn to make the past our future in terms of using wind. And so I'm just really thrilled by that, because it is such a time warp and uses the absolute best of our technology now to propel, sorry, propel one of our most ancient, ancient resources, which is wind and so and or timeless actually resources, which is wind. So I'm just really thrilled about that time warp aspect of it. 

The other thing that I think is really beautiful is just to make the impossible possible. Because, as I said, so many people are absolutely, firmly convinced that we will never be able to change maritime industry emissions and change their technologies and change everything that needs to be changed. And so all of these examples of how we are already today making what seemed the impossible, making it possible, I just think is very exciting.

Paul Dickinson: [00:54:52] And just a tiny point in that, you know, you think of the old sailing ships with all these hundreds of sailors running up and down masts and pulling things. We can't do that again. We don't need to.

Christiana Figueres: [00:55:00] Exactly, because we're using all our technology.

Paul Dickinson: [00:55:02] In 1793, totally. We didn't have electric motors. I mean, think about it. We got satellites telling us exactly where all the wind is. We've got, you know, incredible capability. Sorry, Tom.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:55:12] No, no, I was I was just going to chime in. I mean, in terms of the pathway from here to there. And I love what you both said. I was also really struck by what Morten Christiansen of AP Moller-Maersk talked about at the beginning of the episode. It kind of reminded me of this momentum perfection dichotomy we've talked about before, and his point about how we can't just stand back wringing our hands about not having the perfect fuel solution and and therefore letting the industry to continue to power itself on dirty fossil fuels. This really hit home for me, and that his view was that we should just start with what we have available now.  Build momentum, build the market for alternative fuels so that shipbuilding companies have the confidence to then go further and iterate our way to a new solution. So that really struck me as well as like there's actually, as you've talked about with wind and other solutions, it's all there to be done. We need to just jump in and build momentum towards where we need to.

Paul Dickinson: [00:56:01] Go, and top marks to Ship it Zero. By the way, I love to see an NGO using the basically the consumer pressure. You know, people will talk negatively about the consumer voice. You know, if you if you if you take people as consumers and you're like, you stop them being citizens. But let's remember that we actually are consumers. It's our dollars, it's our euro that are going to fund all of this. So Ship It Zero, calling out companies like Home Depot, Lowe's, Target and inviting people to communicate directly to those companies, saying, I want to see zero carbon shipping. And actually, it's amazing the power the customer has to push the whole business system in a new direction. So big, big, big gold star to Ship It Zero. Yeah.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:56:42] So Christiana, this has been amazing. Is there anything else you want to add at the end of this wonderful episode that you've guided us through before we move on?

Christiana Figueres: [00:56:49] I think this is the first time in podcast history, our podcast history, that I have managed to convince Tom and Paul of something that they did not think at the beginning, but they're actually flowing in my direction. So I just want to make a mark into the history of this podcast

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:10] Such complete nonsense. You convince us of stuff.

Paul Dickinson: [00:57:13] You had us at Ahoy! To slightly misquote Tom Cruise.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:18] That's such nonsense. But you did convince us this week, right? Okay, listeners, thank you so much for joining us for this special episode. We will be back as ever next week. Of course, we're going to do a mailbag episode, so please do send in your questions. We have a lot of fun when we do these episodes. It could be anything related. This episode is great, but anything that is troubling you, or that is on your mind that you'd like us to address, and we'll see you then. Thanks for joining us. Thanks to everyone who participated in this episode.

Paul Dickinson: [00:57:47] Bye for now.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:47] Bye.

Christiana Figueres: [00:57:48] Bye bye.


Latest Insights