Aligning with 1.5 degrees

Press Release: Companies should use the latest climate science, derived from the IPCC, as guidance for their investment decisions instead of relying on the shifting political landscape at the IMO, shipping’s international regulator, that uses consensus-building approaches to make decisions and only raising ambition over time, new insight brief by UMAS for the Getting to Zero Coalition suggests.


The language of decarbonisation has been changing, and increasingly emphasises the need to act to avoid temperatures rising more than ‘1.5 [degrees]’ above pre-industrial temperatures, the temperature goal included in the Paris Agreement. What does avoiding temperatures rising more than ‘1.5’ really mean in the context of shipping? And what tools can be used to manage this situation? A new insight brief, titled ‘Aligning with 1.5 degrees’ by UMAS for the Getting to Zero Coalition, a partnership between the Global Maritime Forum and the World Economic Forum, attempts to answer these questions.

Dr Tristan Smith, Associate professor at UCL Energy Institute and Director of UMAS said; “The challenge for the shipping sector is not to get deceived into thinking any IMO agreed ambition is permanent or definitive, but to plan for it to increase ambition over time. As long as there is compromise or misalignment with IPCC advice to policymakers, there will be a ratcheting-up of ambition. Taking guidance from the ‘floor’ of the debate (e.g. current IMO minimum targets) is a gamble, as long as the ‘ceiling’ of the debate is set by IPCC.”

As the debate continues at the IMO on the revision of its Initial GHG Strategy and the level of ambition, the Insight Brief argues that investment decisions that are based on a process built upon consensus-building and ratcheting-up (raising over time) of ambition, is fundamentally flawed for a sector with long-life assets, which need to be designed and built for decades of operation.


The Insight Brief discusses how the newly released Science Based Targets for the Maritime Transport Sector presents approaches that both operators and customers of shipping can use to ensure alignment with 1.5 degrees and shows how misaligned the minimum IMO levels of ambition are. The SBTi tools provide corporations with an approach that can enable and clearly communicate their adoption of a strategy unambiguously aligned with the science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The SBTi is one of the few independent third parties endorsed by the High Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities.

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