The worldwide governing our bodies for transport and aviation have each set net-zero targets for 2050, so the business dedication to decarbonise is there.
But we’ve nonetheless seen little in the way in which of tangible motion.
It is unsurprising that the query of how one can decarbonise transport dominated at London International Shipping Week final week, and can make sure you proceed at this week’s European Shipping Summit.
We have gotten the constructing blocks of what must be finished in place. We can improve effectivity in each sectors, utilise applied sciences reminiscent of wind propulsion, and instantly electrify the shortest journeys.
However, to transcend incremental change, each sectors want to seek out different fuels to exchange fossil fuels — and we urgently want regulation to drive this transition.
Sadly, as of now, the EU is lagging behind the place it must be, and the manufacturing of those different fuels can be trailing behind the required tempo.
The want for inexperienced hydrogen
Enabling the transfer away from fossil fuels is the place hydrogen comes in.
Either used instantly as a gas or used to provide different fuels reminiscent of e-ammonia, e-methanol or artificial kerosene, hydrogen is required for all pathways to actually sustainable fuels for transport and aviation.
These fuels present an necessary path to decarbonisation, however there are important challenges relating to scaling their manufacturing.
At the tip of 2021, solely 4 p.c of hydrogen produced globally was “green”, which describes the bottom emission type of hydrogen produced through electrolysis.
To compound this challenge, hydrogen is being put ahead as an answer for decarbonising sectors throughout the financial system, from house heating to highway transport.
Given the inherent inefficiencies in producing hydrogen, there merely won’t be sufficient obtainable whether it is used to decarbonise sectors reminiscent of these which produce other and extra environment friendly routes to decarbonise.
This all factors in direction of the necessity for regulation that won’t solely drive up the availability of inexperienced hydrogen, however crucially guarantee it, is focused in direction of the sectors the place it’s most wanted for decarbonisation.
Maritime and aviation
In the EU, each FuelEU Maritime and ReFuel EU Aviation legislate using these fuels in transport and aviation.
But they should go additional in incentivising hydrogen-derived fuels with the bottom emission discount potential, as a substitute of additionally selling fuels, which merely produce decrease emissions than present fossil fuels.
Take aviation, the place ReFuelEU Aviation requires 70 p.c of aviation fuels to be ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ by 2050.
However, beneath this headline determine, it solely requires 35 p.c of the gas combine to comprise artificial fuels (like e-kerosene or these comprised of inexperienced hydrogen) by the identical yr.
And for transport, regardless of ready years for the IMO to behave, FuelEU Maritime falls wanting the targets set by the IMO by solely calling for an 80 p.c discount in the greenhouse fuel depth of fuels utilized by the sector by 2050.
This signifies that each laws will nonetheless permit for using fuels that aren’t actually sustainable.
These embrace biofuels in the case of aviation and liquid pure fuel (LNG) for transport — which won’t be sufficient to realize the emission discount targets they’ve set themselves for these sectors.
Herein lies the inexperienced hydrogen gap: laws reminiscent of ReFuel EU Aviation and FuelEU Maritime will not be incentivising the bottom emission fuels — resulting in an absence of demand sign for hydrogen-derived fuels and their manufacturing lagging behind the place it must be.
First-mover corporations reminiscent of Maersk are prepared to maneuver to vessels powered by new fuels however are nonetheless not sure whether or not there will probably be sufficient gas for these ships to run on.
So how will we plug this inexperienced hydrogen gap?
For a begin, we have to see laws strengthened to point out that there will probably be important demand for hydrogen-derived fuels in transport and aviation over different ‘sustainable’ fuels.
Regulation should additionally be certain that provides of inexperienced hydrogen are prioritised to be used in sectors the place there aren’t different, extra environment friendly routes to decarbonisation.
And importantly, there have to be additional interrogation into what the EU can do to steer in the manufacturing of those fuels.
The United States’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signifies that we’re more likely to see the primary hydrogen-derived fuels for aviation produced and used in the US.
The EU should now query what it might do to rival the US for management in producing these fuels.
The yr 2050 might sound a good distance off, however a wholesale shift away from fossil fuels for transport and aviation will not come shortly. Action must be taken now — or we might properly miss the boat.