The march towards Net Zero Carbon is picking up pace, but Ports appear to be bringing up the rear

Posted on: 18/12/2020

This has been a surprisingly welcome year, when we as a nation have taken a significant step in the right direction towards Net Zero Carbon. We have seen renewed conviction in our ambition to be net zero by 2050.


Mark Wray – KTM Buildings & Infrastructure

2020 has been a surprising year in so many ways. For someone who has been working on the transition to net zero carbon since 2008, however, this has been a surprisingly welcome year, when we as a nation have taken a significant step in the right direction. We have seen renewed conviction in our ambition to be net zero by 2050, and white papers are being actioned into strategies with the early trickle of public funding flowing to support them. Matt shares more on what the Spending Review signifies later in this piece.

Last week saw the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) publish The Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) which charts the decisive move to zero carbon for the UK. The CCC shows that polluting emissions must fall by almost 80% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels – a big step-up in ambition. Just 18 months ago this was the UK’s 2050 goal.

The Carbon Budget wasn’t the only notable publication last week. The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and sister organisation, the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) published its report Are we ready? Delivering Net Zero. This report was based on a survey of over 130 leading sustainability experts, drawn from across sectors, examining our built environment and its readiness to deliver on the UK’s ambitions. They considered a range of factors and included a heat map of readiness and infrastructure areas.

This report echoes the sentiments of several of the members of our Advisory Group, most importantly, that ports have the most arduous of journeys to make on the transition to Net Zero Carbon (NZC). They are a very complex piece of the infrastructure puzzle, widely spread across the UK (and the globe) with highly fragmented ownership, the majority of which is in the private sector. They are a crucial transport interconnection between road, rail and waterborne forms of transport combined with their own complex mobility and movement needs. All of this diverse energy demand for mobility and movement is currently almost exclusively met by burning diesel in combustion engines and venting into the atmosphere – a practice that isn’t in accordance with the vision for NZC UK in 2050.

But as the song goes, “these times are a-changing” and demand is growing to reduce emissions, clean up the air and stop contributing to global warming. This is not some distant vision on the horizon but is the here and now. It is a huge ask and a complex challenge for ports to address. Grand cross-sectorial challenges don’t tend to be met through silo working or any one individual organisation forging ahead. We need a collective understanding of the challenge and to co-develop solutions, to draw in both private and essential public funding to deliver an integrated system solution.


Matthew Moss – KTM Maritime

Hydrogen is often tipped as the decarbonised fuel of the future and in the Spending Review, £240m has been allocated to invest in low carbon hydrogen production and infrastructure, including, £3m for the construction of the Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport Hub. Development of a world leading hydrogen infrastructure serves as a great enabler to begin the decarbonisation process of our transport industry.

What does this mean for Maritime?

Looking at other transport modes, £20m has been made available to invest in the Clean Maritime Demonstrator Programme. Building upon existing successful projects such as the hydrogen ferry trials in Orkney, these funds will kickstart the development of clean maritime technologies to fortify the UK’s position as a leading maritime nation.

The Government is also committed to delivering 10 Freeports across the UK (at least one in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). This programme aims to establish Freeports as national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK, promote regeneration and job creation and create hotbeds for innovation.

The CCC Sixth Carbon Budget

The CCC, in its document setting out proposed policies for the UK’s path to Net Zero (‘Policies for the Sixth Carbon Budget and Net Zero’), states that on shipping, the UK should:

  • Formally include International Shipping emissions within UK climate targets when setting the Sixth Carbon Budget.
  • Continue working with the IMO on global shipping policies, research funding, tighter efficiency targets, and strengthening the IMO 2050 global target.
  • Build on the Clean Maritime Plan to set a Net Zero 2050 goal for UK shipping, and develop incentives for zero-carbon ammonia and hydrogen supply chains.
  • Commit to the UK’s first clean maritime cluster(s) operating at commercial scale (supplying at least 2 TWh/year of zero-carbon fuels) by 2030 at the latest, with zero-carbon fuels expanding to 33% of UK shipping fuel use by 2035.
  • Provide support for ports’ investment in shore power and electric recharging infrastructure.
  • Continue innovation and demonstration support for zero-carbon fuel technologies and their use in shipping, and ship efficiency measures.
  • Monitor non-CO2 effects of shipping and consider how best to tackle them alongside UK climate targets.


The Decarbonising Ports & Harbours Innovation Network

The Decarbonising Ports & Harbours Innovation Network has been convened to raise the profile of the critical part ports and harbours need to play in Maritime transport’s transition to net zero by 2050 and accelerate this transition by giving clear direction. “The UK Port sector faces a real challenge in delivering to the NZC agenda, but by working together with KTN we will harness our collective knowledge and ideas to make this challenge easier to work through,” says J J Bailey ADC, Deputy Chair of this Innovation Network’s Advisory Group

The desired end-result of this community’s work is a sector-led, compelling proposal for a government and industry partnership and stimulus package. This will include:

  1. Agreed priority cross-sector challenges, informed by the current policy and solutions landscape
  2. A roadmap for solution development, that offer the best overall lifecycle emission reductions, to provide focus and early planning for longer term R&D and innovation investment
  3. Agreed industry and government commitments and priority actions, including investment plan and timescales.

If you or your organisation have an interest or can offer assistance to this Network in its aims, then please join our community by signing up to the newsletter and contribute to the working groups and workshops we will be delivering in the coming year. If you have a solution which can contribute to some of the pressing challenges then look out next year for our Innovation Exchange challenges, which are sponsored by some of the Port owners and operators who have current technical challenges and are seeking solutions.

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