On 8 September 2021 the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) launched Defining sustainability criteria for zero and low carbon marine fuels outlining fifteen issues, principles and criteria that provide guidance on the sustainability of fuels under consideration for shipping’s decarbonisation.

Following the launch of the report, SSI in collaboration with Lloyd’s Register convened a small roundtable during London International Shipping Week with the goal of discussing the findings of the report and identifying concrete next steps to bring lifecycle emissions and sustainability to the forefront of decarbonisation discussions for the maritime sector.

Finally, Climate Week NYC saw a public launch webinar take place with support from the Getting to Zero Coalition, which brought together speakers from A.P. Moller-Maersk, Lloyd’s Register and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials to discuss practical challenges and opportunities around the topic.

Watch the recording and read a summary of key points raised and next steps below.

The future of zero emission fuels will not be sector-specific

Participants agreed that shipping does not need to reinvent the wheel to ensure that the fuels it develops, promotes and invests in are sustainable beyond emission reduction. The future zero and low carbon fuels will share much of their supply chain regardless of their end use, and there is a need to harmonise existing sustainability standards and certifications across sectors and engage with other modes of transport such as aviation and road.

Building sustainability into decision-making early

Early action is key to ensure adoption, and shipping’s current fuel transition presents an opportunity to incorporate sustainability considerations along availability, cost and technical feasibility. Industry players agree that there is no silver bullet solution and all fuel users will need to consider a number of options.

Building sustainability considerations into the discussion early and providing assurance through standards and certification schemes can: help shipowners and operators make informed purchasing decisions, increase transparency, guide investment, and enable the development of new, sustainable fuel supply chains through demand.

Drivers for standards and certification

Assurance through a standard and supporting certification programme can provide minimum requirements and ensure that actors across the value chain understand the sustainability credentials of fuels being considered for purchase and use.

The shipping sector can build on existing work such as the EU Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED) and ICAO’s CORSIA standard, and look to the biofuels sector for an example of existing sustainability standards and certification.

While there is a key role for shipowners, operators, cargo owners and others in demanding sustainability assurance, regulation may be the biggest driver in ensuring the adoption of any standard or assurance mechanism.

Risks and challenges

While assurance is key in building trust and transparency along the fuel value chain, there is a need to ensure it does not become a burden or barrier to scaling up sustainable fuel production. Harmonising criteria across sectors and building on existing work can help avoid overburdening fuel producers and other actors along the fuel value chain.

Further discussion and research is needed to understand the points at which sustainability certification is possible along the fuel value chain, noting that the majority of sustainability risks are found at the beginning, e.g. with the feedstock.

Other issues discussed included the need for auditing for assurance and fraud risk and potential double counting for e.g. synthetic fuels produced based on renewable electricity.

Moving ahead

Participants agreed on the importance of sustainability criteria to increase awareness of different environmental, social and economic sustainability issues across the well-to-wake lifecycle of a fuel, and the need to ensure that negative impacts are not shifted upstream in the fuel value chain.

The key takeaway from these discussions is the need for cross-sectoral collaboration and harmonisation, looking beyond maritime for guidance on sustianability criteria and assurance that can be applied to future fuels for any sector.

If you are interested in discussing further, please download the report below, or contact us at info@sustainableshipping.org