Containers on a ship

New shipping climate change strategy can put wind in UK’s sails

Ministers must move quickly to publish an updated Clean Maritime Plan (CMP) so that the UK cancut shipping emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. 

In a new article based on their research, Simon Bullock, Alice Larkin and James Mason from the Tyndall Centre at The University of Manchester warn that deep reductions in shipping emissions are required this decade, but the current plan, released in 2019, was strong on rhetorical ambition, but was comparatively light on supporting policy and targets, which were flagged as requiring development. 

They add: “The Government has suggested for some time that the CMP would be refreshed by the end of 2023, with the latest official update now stating that a new version will be published as soon as possible. This CMP refresh is vital for the UK to drive down its shipping emissions. 

The academics highlight that the recently agreed International Maritime Organisation (IMO) strategy sets new ‘checkpoint’ and ‘strive’ targets for international shipping to cut its greenhouse gas emissions – their research compares these targets with the Paris agreement goal to limit global heating to 1.5°C. 

They write: “Our latest research concludes that the checkpoint targets are not sufficient, but, under generous assumptions, the strive targets of 30% reductions by 2030 and 80% by 2040 are compatible with the 1.5°C limitThese strive targets should be considered a minimum level of ambition for the sector. There is also an urgency to implementing these targets: any further delay in cutting emissions would push compatibility with 1.5°C out of reach.  Therefore, it is emissions cuts this decade that must be prioritised.” 

In their article published by Policy@ManchesterBullock, Larkin and Mason identify five headline criteria on which a successful Government strategy for reducing UK shipping emissions should be based. 

These include ambitionwith stronger domestic emission targets than the global average,“scope” which the academics recommend should incorporate reductions in the UK’s international shipping emissions, and “economic instruments” such as tax cuts for cleaner energy sources. 

Also “shore power” to reduce maritime pollution by allowing ships to plug-in while at berth, and “wind propulsion” including priority funding and policy support for investment in wind propulsion technology systems which their research showscan cut emissions by around 20%.  

The University of Manchester experts conclude: “Tackling climate change is desperately urgentThe new IMO targets set a clear direction – that the shipping sector must cut its emissions deeply and rapidly. The UK aspires to be a global leader in Clean Maritime – if its new CMP refresh can set clear targets for 2030, expand its coverage to include international emissions, put in place strong economic instruments, and support wind and shore power technologies, then the UK’s revamped maritime strategy would truly have wind in its sails. 


Climate change: navigating a clear route for UK shipping” by Simon Bullock, Alice Larkin and James Mason is available to read on the Policy@Manchester website.