A group of nine major international companies has pledged to use only zero-emission ships to transport goods by 2040 in a fresh attempt to decarbonise ocean shipping.

Amazon, Inditex, Ikea and Unilever are among the multinationals that have committed to the target. The businesses have vowed to only use ocean freight services powered by zero-carbon marine fuels – a goal they plan to hit within the next two decades.  

The fuels must have zero greenhouse emissions on a lifecycle basis, including in their production, not just during use.

The initiative has been spearheaded by non-profit organisation the Aspen Institute, which expects other retailers reliant on ocean shipping to sign up to the pledge. 

Shipping is estimated to be responsible for 2.9% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally, according to the UN shipping regulator the International Maritime Organisation. 

Experts say this figure could rise to 10% by 2050 if the shipping industry continues to use carbon-intensive fuels. Around 90% of world trade is currently transported by sea.

Aspen Institute president Dan Porterfield told the BBC: “Maritime shipping, like all sectors of the global economy, needs to decarbonise rapidly if we are to solve the climate crisis, and multinational companies will be key actors in catalysing a clean energy transition.

“We urge other cargo owners, value chain actors and governments to join forces with us.”

Unilever head of logistics Michelle Grose told Reuters: “By signalling our combined commitment to zero-emission shipping, we are confident that we will accelerate the transition at the pace and the scale that is needed.”

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