Cutting carbon from ship fuel will reshape global energy markets and give owners a chance to create new businesses with huge potential, a leading British environmentalist has argued.

Bryony Worthington, who was the lead author of the landmark UK climate change act, said decarbonisation would rip up today’s fuel market where shipowners are at the mercy of fuel prices set by energy firms.

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If the shift is to hydrogen, as many believe most likely in the long-term, it will open up new opportunities to build production facilities away from traditional energy hubs.

“Shipowners will be buyers of the new fuels, and you could start to invest upstream in the manufacture of the new fuels you consume,” Worthington told the Global Maritime Forum in Singapore today.

“That’s a big vision — something that this sector can deliver far more effectively and efficiently than any other sector of the economy.”

Baroness Worthington is an independent lawmaker sitting in the UK’s House of Lords upper chamber and is executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund.

“Why should you care?” she asked the audience of around 250 leaders of the global maritime industry.

“Because it’s going to make good business sense. You are going to make money from this. This is a trillion-dollar market that is about to be broken open and become much more diverse.”

Worthington argued shipowners suffer because they fuel price takers.

"There is an opportunity as we move into a more diverse fuel model for you to be part of a new energy system where we are going to have many more diverse players and people entering into this market, meaning ultimately you’re less beholden to one or two options."

Soren Toft, chief operating officer of Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk, told the same session on the Global Maritime Forum’s Getting to Zero Coalition alliance that the bold target of net zero carbon emissions needed to be embraced.

“We are setting this course out because it is necessary for the world, it is necessary for future generations, and quite frankly it is necessary for shipping to do something about this to be a true and viable servant of global trade,” he said.

Issue for all

Cutting carbon emissions to help slow climate change is now a critical issue for everyone in shipping, he argued.

“This is an issue dear to my heart. The situation is serious. I take it very seriously, and frankly my kids they take it seriously and they demand answers amongst others from their father.”

Toft presented the Getting to Zero Coalition to the UN secretary general’s recent climate change summit in New York as one of only around 30 business leaders invited to speak.

“The Getting to Zero Coalition is exactly to address this how we can innovate, how we can collaborate and how we can scale around energy efficient solutions,” he added.

Worthington argued business faced no other choice but to change.

“We are getting to world where business as usual is no longer sustainable, there will be lots of changes coming,” she said. “We see this as an opportunity not a threat.”