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Bridging the gaps for maritime decarbonization

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LONDON : IMO-UNEP-Norway Zero-and Low-Emission Innovation Forum highlighted challenges and opportunities for decarbonization, financing, building on innovation and best practices.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing around innovation are the most effective ways to propel the global maritime industry towards a decarbonized future, according to participants of the three-day IMO-UNEP-Norway Zero- and Low-Emission Innovation Forum.

The online event, held on 27-29 September and broadcast on UN TV, saw over 1,000 participants from across the world exchange best practices, ideas and latest developments with a view to enabling more inclusive maritime innovation towards decarbonization.

In his opening speech, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “The energy transition of the maritime industry will require new technologies, low- and zero- carbon (renewable) alternative fuels and infrastructure to support low- and zero-carbon shipping. Innovation is core to its success. The IMO-UNEP-Norway Zero- and Low-Emission Innovation Forum is a recognition of this need. This is a novel forum to promote further cooperation and exchange of best practices, and to learn from other sectors where a similar transition has taken place on the global scale.”

The IMO Chief of the Department of Partnerships and Projects, Dr. Jose Matheickal said, “IMO is keen to ensure that no Member State is left behind in the journey a low-carbon future. This transition requires global effort with buy in from multiple stakeholders, which is why we are thrilled by the level of interest and participation in this forum – as well as the practical steps that emerged from the discussions.”

Topics in the spotlight included novel technologies to reduce GHG emissions in maritime; R&D enabling environment, including financing; ongoing projects; and models of innovation and cooperation which could further foster innovation; as well as examples of North-South and South-South cooperation on R&D. Attendees heard from numerous high-profile speakers, including representatives of Governments, regulators, industry and academics on these topics. Many exchanges took place during the breakout sessions. (See the list of speakers and the programme here).

Making innovation inclusive

An important focus for the forum was addressing the specific needs of developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). An issue that was acknowledged by numerous speakers was a lag between decarbonization efforts – particularly in research and development – in developing countries and those in the developed countries.

One solution proposed was to raise awareness of innovation projects, financing opportunities and areas of mutual growth of LDCs and SIDS so that they were not left to re-invent the decarbonization wheel. This awareness must be on a regional and global scale, in order to take advantage of opportunities while avoiding fragmentation.

Forum discussions highlighted the importance of inclusive innovation. They also called for coordination of key stakeholders across the value chain. Inclusive innovation requires close coordination and cooperation among stakeholders, both in developed and developing countries – particularly SIDS and LDCs.

Some speakers highlighted that coordinated actions to reduce emissions from shipping could be achieved by bringing together the R&D initiatives and R&D centres in developed countries (such as Singapore Global Maritime Decarbonization Centre, MAERSK Center for Zero-Carbon Shipping) with those in developing regions (such as the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres -MTCCs – a network of regional centres established by IMO under a project funded by the European Union).

Finance was a prominent topic during the forum, with emphasis given to the need to bring onboard the private sector, national banks and International Financial Institutions in a coordinated manner. Not only would this minimize risk but would support the demonstration of appropriate solutions in developing countries, including in LDCs and SIDS.

Many speakers noted that this kind of coordination would require innovative financial solutions to underwrite some of the associated risks. This could be achieved through Government support and International Financial Institution interventions, such as blended public and private financing for technology demonstrations, technology diffusion and eventually wider uptake of innovative solutions.

IMO is already operating a number of initiatives in LDCs and SIDS that bridge the knowledge gap with developed nations and spread innovation along the maritime chain. These projects include the sharing of information on new maritime decarbonization initiatives using the IMO-Singapore NextGEN portal, knowledge sharing via the network of European-Union-funded MTCCs and the IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 Project that assists developing countries to implement low-carbon projects and optimize existing systems and is currently preparing a major pilot project. The proposed IMO CARES emission reduction project will also support this process, within its preparatory phase actively seeking solutions on how to link North and South R&D efforts, and how to link country needs and ongoing R&D effort, with the inclusion of the financial sector as well.

Funding a global transition

The need for funding streams to facilitate a global transition to low-carbon operations formed an important part of the discussions, with speakers pointing out that funding of pilot projects raises the profile of and reduces risks associated with new technologies. They also highlighted the importance of varied sources of funding, going beyond those offered by banks, such as private investment, blended financing and more.

Although funding for decarbonization projects exists, some attendees warned that this is not prolific enough and may not be visible to LDC and SIDS stakeholders. There may also be issues securing funds when scaling up projects after trial periods. One solution put forward during the forum was to develop a capacity building toolkit on potentially available funding sources offered by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and other key global initiatives and funds (such as the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund).

Speakers recognized that maritime innovation is currently considered a niche sector for financial stakeholders, which may be the reason for a limited number of participants in this market. This issue can only be addressed by increasing the profile of maritime technological solutions and building trust, as well as mutual capacity building. This trust-building and education on maritime decarbonization needs and specifics must target the financial sector, with the opportunities in developing countries an important part of the conversation. LDCs and SIDS must also be educated about potential investment and grant availabilities, as well as processes to secure funding.

IMO is already active on this front, together with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank. They have created the FINSMART Roundtable, to bring together project beneficiary countries, donors and International Financial Institutions, as well as other financial sector representatives to discuss financing risks, opportunities and identify potential financial products, solutions – all with a focus on financing needs of developing countries, LDCs and SIDS.

Some forum speakers highlighted that it is possible that incentive schemes and future market-based measures, such as fuel taxes or other forms of CO2 pricing, may in future result in an additional funding source for adoption of innovative emission reduction technologies in developing countries, LDCs and SIDS.

Looking forward

A number of practical strategies for the transition to a low- and zero-carbon future emerged during the active discussions.

Recommendations included:

* joining and connecting the pilot projects and research and development initiatives (in developed and developing regions) and sharing the lessons learned and outcomes;

* sharing information and linking maritime decarbonization initiatives projects using the IMO-Singapore NextGEN portal;

* linking R&D Centres in developed countries closer to the regional centres, as well as existing maritime decarbonization projects in the developed world;

* fast-tracking port-linked innovations, as many ports are under national frameworks which may support some immediate buy-ins and investment;

* ensuring capacity building of maritime authorities, ports, especially in developing countries, on funding opportunities, potentially available grants and finance options, as well as bankable projects development needs;

* educating policy makers, training project leaders with regard to bankable proposal creation, identifying innovation funding in research institutes and engaging with seafarers as technology users;

* proposing/developing more IMO pilot projects to include technology demonstrations, including more pilot projects in IMO-implemented GHG-related projects, as well as technology demonstrations; and

* arranging further innovation forums to offer a global platform for regular dialogue and exchange of innovation experiences to support the objectives of the Initial IMO GHG strategy.

Roadmap to a low carbon future

Forum attendees were keen to widen the audience for the points raised during discussions and further work together to promote inclusive innovation for maritime decarbonization.

It was suggested that information could be disseminated through IMO. IMO was also seen as the ideal forum to facilitate collaboration and consolidation of the work to spread innovation across the maritime value chain.

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