The maritime shipping industry will fall short of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions (NZE) by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report.

The shipping industry is expected to miss its net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) target “due to a lack of available low-carbon options on the market and the long lifetime of vessels (typically 25 to 35 years)”, the IEA in a report on Tuesday.

This comes despite a growing stream of pledges and commitments from policymakers and industry stakeholders to achieve zero emissions by 2050 in the global shipping industry.

The IEA now expects emissions from the maritime shipping industry, which was responsible for about 880 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019 and 830 million tonnes in the following year, to decline by 6% annually to 120 million tonnes of CO2 in 2050.

About 90% of world trade is transported by sea, and the UN shipping agency – the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – aims to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050.

In the short-term, considerable emission reductions in shipping are possible through operational efficiencies such as reduced voyage speeds and wind assistance while in the medium-term low-carbon fuels such as biofuels, hydrogen and ammonia will play a significant role, according to the IEA.

“Ammonia and hydrogen are the main low-carbon fuels for shipping adopted over the next three decades in the NZE, their combined share of total energy consumption in shipping reaching around 60% in 2050,” said the IEA.

Biofuels are expected to provide almost 20% of total shipping energy needs in 2050 while electrification will play a “very minor role”, it said.

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