Tides of Change: A Framework for Developing Just and Inclusive Green Shipping Corridors

Transitioning away from fossil fuels must include careful effort to avoid perpetuating the injustices present in today’s global economy, and instead ensure a just and equitable transition. A new report “Tides of Change: A Framework for Developing Just and Inclusive Maritime Green Corridors” co-created by the UN Global Compact, the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, and the Sustainable Shipping Initiative outlines the necessary considerations and actions required from companies and governments involved in establishing green shipping corridors around the world.

Recommendations made in the report for a just and equitable transition towards net zero include:

  • Ensuring green corridors leverage wider transition aims regionally/locally including improved access to clean energy, the development of decent, sustainable jobs, a diverse and inclusive workforce and capacity building but also improved air quality and preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems regionally.
  • Creating decent, sustainable jobs and workforce up-skilling. In the process of establishing green corridors, stakeholders can test and demonstrate how to conduct inclusive social dialogue with affected groups.
  • Advocating for strengthening institutional and regulatory frameworks that promote inclusion and protection of the most affected stakeholders.

Transitioning to zero and near-zero emission economies is at the core of addressing the three planetary crises outlined by the UN: climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution currently underway. However, decarbonization cannot be treated in isolation. As recognized in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, “ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.”

Shipping is deeply integrated in 90% of global trade flows and, therefore, a central part of the necessary systems change towards zero and near-zero emission economies. However, the shipping industry can only truly succeed with decarbonization if the socio-economic and broader environmental impacts of the transition are adequately understood and addressed.

In July 2023, the International Maritime Organization agreed on a 2023 greenhouse gas strategy signaling early industry commitment to phasing out GHG emissions from international shipping as well as promoting a just and equitable transition.

The International Labour Organization defines a just transition as “greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.” In their ‘Introduction to just transition – a business brief’, the UN Global Compact further explores how the private sector can “help achieve a just transition through own policies and strategies, but also by advocating for a public policy environment which is conducive to a just transition for all.”

This ambition is further detailed in an UNCTAD article published in 2022 outlining the elements of what a just and equitable transition entails for maritime. The authors argue that a just and equitable transition for the shipping industry should be socially just, globally equitable, technologically inclusive, and procedurally fair: “a globally equitable transition considers disparities between nations and whether action taken to address climate change would exacerbate or explicitly seek to mitigate them.”

As recognized by the increasing number of signatories to the Clydebank Declaration, a key accelerator of early transition is green shipping corridors – large-scale demonstration projects that enable sustainable shipping solutions in and between selected ports. Once operational, green corridors can speed up the development of alternative fuel supply chains and new business models across the maritime ecosystem. Green corridors have the potential to strengthen the confidence in the feasibility of green shipping solutions and catalyze global action towards the energy transition.

In addition to demonstrating technical and regulatory feasibility, green corridors are uniquely positioned to act as demonstration projects for socio-economic and environmental impacts. As we navigate the transition away from fossil fuels, it is crucial to reflect on and address the existing injustices embedded in today’s global economy, such as unequal access to energy, food and water, economic disparities between the Global South and Global North, and social inequities.

Applying a just and equitable transition lens to green corridors will help stakeholders shape a transition that not only mitigates environmental impact but also ensures that the benefits of green shipping corridors are shared inclusively across communities and nations. Green corridors can help unlock benefits for countries – such as accelerating the development of sustainable fuel production, enabling knowledge and technology transfers, building local capacity and creating green jobs, supporting a country’s wider transition aims, and improving access to clean energy. This is particularly true for many developing countries placed in areas with an abundance of solar or wind.

This report describes what the stakeholders involved in green corridors project consortia must consider in order to contribute to a just transition. It is evident that this requires significant collective action, but also that the benefits of this approach will spread far beyond the shipping industry benefiting individuals, communities, and countries.

This article was published originally on The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping website and is republished here with permission.

CGLR’s business and sustainability network programming is supported by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

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