A new initiative in marine shipping seeks to mobilise the collective power of the industry to provide demand signals that will accelerate innovation in zero-emission marine freight technologies

Increasing the confidence of investors is key to innovating climate solutions; ZEMBA aims to increase confidence in the marine shipping sector to help ensure that zero-emission technologies are properly funded.
March 23, 2023

The carbon impact of marine shipping

Marine shipping is one of the few industries not included in the terms of the Paris Agreement on climate change is maritime shipping. According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, ’today's industry contributes between 2% and 3% of the world's CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, some researchers believe that by 2050, maritime shipping might be responsible for 17% of all annual CO2 emissions. The global economy already places a significant emphasis on shipping. When the coronavirus pandemic disrupted supply routes and again in March 2021 when a huge container ship blocked the Suez Canal for over a week, the public received a harsh reminder of that fact. In terms of volume, seaborne ships transport more than 80% of the world's trade. Many of the materials that other industries require to enable their low-carbon transition, such as lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and wind turbine blades, will be transported on cargo and container ships powered by carbon-intensive marine bunker fuels unless the industry rapidly alters its direction.[i]

Source: Unsplash

Mobilising collective power to accelerate decarbonisation

One initiative seeking to address the acceleration of decarbonisation in this area is CoZev. Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV) is a cargo owner-led cooperation platform that aims to enable maritime freight customers to band together and utilise their collective brand power and economies of scale to hasten marine carbon reduction.

Their goal is to create a global maritime shipping industry that:

  • Provides commercially viable maritime freight services using zero-emission shipping fuels and technologies at a scale that will enable cargo owners to decarbonise their maritime freight by 2040.
  • Is in line with the climate targets set forth in the Paris Agreement, which entails almost zero greenhouse gas emissions for the entire industry by the year 2050 at the latest.[ii]

Last week CoZEV announced a new program called ZEMBA, the zero-emissions marine buyers association. ZEMBA was founded by the Aspen Institute alongside corporate partners Amazon, Patagonia and Tchibo. ZEMBA aims to facilitate freight purchasers' abilities to promote economies of scale, hasten the commercial adoption of zero-emission shipping, and aid in reducing maritime emissions. Together, ZEMBA members aim to use their collective power to achieve committed demand to inspire trust in investors, carriers, ship owners, and manufacturers of renewable and zero-emission fuels. In order to forward acquire maritime shipping services that achieve zero or nearly zero emissions on a lifecycle basis for all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide, ZEMBA wants to publish a Request for Proposal (RFP) in 2023. It is anticipated that these services will begin to be provided in 2025 or 2026. ZEMBA is inviting freight purchasers to sign up so they may get zero-emission shipping.[iii]

Kara Hurst, Vice President of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon, spoke at the launch of ZEMBA, saying:

“Removing the climate impact of hard-to-abate sectors, such as maritime shipping, requires continuous collaboration, investment, and innovation - which is why we joined ZEMBA,” “Through ZEMBA, we are taking important steps forward together with other cargo owners to unblock challenges, accelerate solutions, and create the demand needed to decarbonise maritime shipping and support a clean energy transition.”.[iv]

The role of forward procurement

Achieving environmental sustainability frequently calls for innovative solutions that are either not yet on the market or are priced too highly; as a result, customers don't demand them, and as a result, the solutions don't have the funding they need to join the market and compete. As a result, the delivery of public sector objectives is hampered by a shortage of products and services that are both affordable and efficient. Confidence in the existence of a market for the product, once it has been validated, is crucial for suppliers of new items. This confidence affects how much money product developers and their supply chains invest.[v] By mobilising a group of buyers through ZEMBA, investors can have confidence that there is a market for a solution, and as such, investment is more likely.


[i] S & P Global= Your climate change goals may have a maritime shipping problem

[ii] CoZEV- About CoZEV

[iii] CoZEV- Join Zero Emission Maritime Buyers Alliance

[iv] CoZEV- The Aspen Institute, Amazon, Patagonia and Tchibo launch the zero emissions maritime buyers association to accelerate maritime shipping decarbonisation.

[v] UK Government- Forward Commitment Procurement – Practical Pathways to Buying Innovative Solutions

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Oscar Pusey
Research Analyst

Oscar is a recent graduate with a background in earth science. He is currently studying an MSc focussing on disaster responses, emergency planning and community resilience. His postgraduate research project will assess the link between climate crisis risk perception and attitudes to green energy projects. “Adapting to the climate crisis through the pursuit of net zero requires community engagement and understanding. Zero Carbon Academy’s goals closely align with this approach and I’m excited to have the opportunity to research and communicate a variety of topics relating to our environment and sustainability”.

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