Climate advocates call Amazon, IKEA fossil-free cargo shipping commitment historic, but too weak

Tuesday October 19, 2021

Ship It Zero coalition calls on retailers to take action a decade sooner and abandon dirty ships by 2030

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Global retail giants including Amazon and IKEA today announced a landmark commitment to move their products off of fossil-fueled maritime cargo ships by 2040, but environmental organizations with the Ship It Zero coalition say the commitment is too weak to address the urgent climate and public health crises tied to the ocean shipping sector. 

Environmental groups Pacific Environment and Stand.earth, which lead the Ship It Zero campaign and its 20,000 supporters, are calling on major retail brands to become leaders in their sector by taking immediate action to reduce their climate and health-harming maritime pollution and switching entirely to zero-emissions ships by 2030 — a decade earlier than today’s commitment. This earlier goal will ensure the shipping industry does its fair share to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target scientists say is needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. 

The Ship It Zero coalition applauds certain details of the announcement, including that: 

  • Companies will define zero-carbon fuels based on “lifecycle greenhouse gas” analysis, ensuring that fossil-derived hydrogen will not meet their criteria 
  • Companies will not consider fossil gas, or “Liquified Natural Gas,” a zero-carbon fuel in their ocean shipping transitions
  • Companies are calling in this statement for mandatory policy actions from government to help them achieve these ambitions

This Ship It Zero coalition is concerned, however, that: 

  • Companies did not specify actions they will take to end ship pollution today, tomorrow, or throughout our most decisive decade on climate action. 
  • Companies largely committed to addressing climate pollution and do not include parallel commitments to ending air pollution from ocean shipping, including sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter pollution. 

Today’s announcement comes just three months after the launch of the Ship It Zero campaign and release of its Shady Ships report, the first study to quantify the climate and public health impacts from some of the biggest American retailers’ reliance on overseas manufacturing and fossil-fueled, transoceanic shipping. 

More than 50,000 merchant ships carry around 80% of global trade, and oceangoing cargo volumes are projected to grow by as much as 130% by 2050. Every single merchant ship in operation right now runs on fossil fuels, but zero emissions vessels are expected to be on the water by 2024. Retailers can immediately reduce their climate and health-harming emissions from maritime shipping through reducing ship speeds (referred to as slow-steaming), shipping only on vessels that do not burn highly polluting heavy fuel oil and fossil gas (LNG), and prioritizing ports that offer onshore power to vessels to avoid idling ship engines while at berth. 

Ship It Zero coalition members Stand.earth and Pacific Environment issued the following statements in response to the announcement:

“Today’s pledge is an important guidepost for the future of maritime shipping, but 2040 is simply too distant a horizon for the retail sector to address the enormous health and climate impacts from its cargo ships. If major retail brands truly want to do their fair share on climate change, they need to be on a course correction now, not 19 years from now. Cleaner shipping solutions already exist, and major retail brands like Amazon and IKEA must champion them,” said Kendra Ulrich, Shipping Campaigns Director, Stand.earth.

“We are thrilled by the historic commitment from Amazon, IKEA and other major goods owners to move their products off of fossil fueled cargo ships, but it does not go far enough. We’re asking Big Retail to be first movers in shipping’s clean energy transition — not just float along — which means a 2040 target date is not sufficient. We’re shocked to see that Walmart, the single-largest maritime importer to the United States, did not join today’s commitment. Where are Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, and many leading maritime importers as documented in our Shady Ships report?” said Madeline Rose, Climate Campaign Director, Pacific Environment.

“While we thank Amazon, IKEA, Patagonia, and other retailers for making a historic commitment to zero-emissions ocean cargo shipping, this commitment does not address our current port pollution crisis. Right now, due to COVID-19 and holiday-related trends, an unprecedented number of fossil-fueled cargo container ships await entry into ports, harming frontline communities and our climate with deadly air pollution and greenhouse gases. We need companies to take accountability now — by committing to 100% zero-emissions ocean cargo shipping this decade,” said Dawny’all Heydari, Ship It Zero Campaign Lead, Pacific Environment. 

About the Ship It Zero campaign

Led by environmental groups Pacific Environment and Stand.earth, the Ship It Zero campaign is calling on some of the nation’s largest maritime importers — including Amazon, Target, IKEA, and Walmart — to transition to 100% zero-emissions cargo shipping vessels by 2030. This ​​goal will ensure the shipping industry does its fair share in helping to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target scientists say is needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

About the Shady Ships report

Released in July 2021, Ship It Zero’s Shady Ships report revealed that just 15 companies are responsible for emitting millions of tons of pollution from importing their goods into the United States on fossil-fueled cargo ships. It is the first study to quantify the climate and public health impacts from some of the biggest American retailers’ reliance on overseas manufacturing and fossil-fueled, transoceanic shipping. 

Collectively, the top importers of U.S. goods are responsible for emitting as much sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter as tens of millions of U.S. vehicles every year. These emissions are some of the most dangerous and deadly types of air pollutants, contributing to asthma, cancer, and premature death. 

The market for transoceanic cargo shipping has grown over the past several decades, and the pandemic accelerated the trend toward shipping goods bought online. Today, over 50,000 cargo ships carry around 80% of global trade, and ocean-going cargo volumes are projected to grow by as much as 130% by 2050. Every single cargo ship in operation right now runs on fossil fuels.

###

Media contacts:
Virginia Cleaveland, Stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902, media@stand.earth (Pacific Time)
Gwen Dobbs, Pacific Environment, gdobbs@pacificenvironment.org, +1 202-329-9295 (Eastern Time)