Fossil gas: the greenwashing pill shipping wants you to swallow

May 17, 2023

How the maritime industry is betting on the wrong horse, leaving behind a trail of climate destruction and stranded assets in its wake

Shipping is responsible for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the total national emissions of the entire German economy. Without effective mitigation measures, maritime transport could account for 10% of CO2 emissions by 2050. Ships have traditionally relied on refinery residues such as heavy fuel oil (HFO), or very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), to power their engines, which inevitably leads to awful climate, environmental and health consequences.

Some regulatory measures combined with societal pressure have pushed shipping companies to start their green transition. But instead of switching to fuels whose green credentials can have a significant positive impact on air pollution and climate change, many ships are planning to run on fossil gas – in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – and that represents a significant step back when it comes to climate change.

Shipping companies that use gas instead of traditional fuels want the public and policymakers to believe that LNG is the “best option available today”. LNG is advertised as “a fuel for the future”, a “transitional fuel”, or as “paving the way for the uptake of sustainable non-fossil fuels”. Science, however, does not agree with these statements. While LNG can have some positive impact when it comes to air quality, it often makes climate problems worse because of methane slips and leakages associated with the use of this fuel.

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