Story at a glance

  • U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry said that the Biden administration intends to decarbonize the shipping sector.
  • 2014 data notes that global shipping emissions accounted for 3.1 percent of all emissions.
  • Kerry said decarbonizing the shipping industry will come no later than 2050.

U.S. government officials are tackling greenhouse gas emissions on a relatively little-known front, as U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry pledges to cut emissions from global shipping by 2050.

Speaking during a virtual conference hosted by the Ocean Conservancy, Kerry described the Biden administration’s larger sustainability goals alongside the Paris Agreement, noting that the world is behind on its broad goal to limit global temperature increases by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We’re actually headed somewhere over four degrees,” Kerry said, highlighting the current trajectory of global temperatures. “The essential decade for action is now.”

He noted that the U.S. has new plans to tackle a major component of climate change: emissions and pollution, primarily in the country’s shipping sector.


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"I want to announce that in support of the global effort to keep us in reach of 1.5 degrees Celsius and in support of global efforts to achieve net zero by no later than 2050,” Kerry stated. “The United States is committing to work with countries in the [International Maritime Organization (IMO)] to adopt the goal of achieving net zero emissions from international shipping by no later than 2050," Kerry stated.

This centers on decarbonizing the shipping industry, which Kerry says produces a volume of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of a major national economy. 

Data compiled by the IMO found that emissions from global shipping composed roughly 3.1 percent of total emissions in 2014 and are projected to increase by about 120 percent by 2050, moving to 10 percent of total emissions. 

Shipping releases greenhouse gas emissions through the burning of oil to propel ships, at the same time emitting small black particulate matter into the atmosphere.

Kerry also added that the U.S. is on track to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 as a pivot to renewable energy sources, and the government aims to promote coastal seagrass conservation as a method of carbon sequestration.


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Published on Apr 21, 2021