In the Intersection of Shipping, Biodiversity, and Decarbonization

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Elissama Menezes and Andrew Dumbrille
By Elissama Menezes and Andrew Dumbrille, April 23, 2024

“Dare to look at the intersectionalities. Dare to be holistic.” bell hooks

There is a growing focus on the need to decarbonize international shipping and take advantage of the opportunities that come with it. Yet, making the maritime industry sustainable and resilient requires us to consider not only how to decarbonize but also the environmental, social, and socio-economic impacts of shipping. 

This is the right time to ensure that the increasing momentum to decarbonize is well-informed and coordinated with efforts to improve shipping’s overall impact on the ocean, planet, and people. To achieve this, it is crucial to understand how shipping operations impact the environment around them and to research and develop solutions for decarbonization that also consider other ocean impacts and have the potential to address ocean health, biodiversity loss, and just and equitable transition. 

Navigating the Future: Bridging Shipping, Biodiversity, and Decarbonization 

Released during COP28 in Dubai, Navigating the Future: Bridging Shipping, Biodiversity, and Decarbonization report highlights the urgency of addressing the triple planetary crisis – pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss – in the context of shipping solutions and impacts. The aim is to elevate the conversation on biodiversity and pollution to the level of climate change and demonstrate how achieving biodiversity targets can contribute to positive climate results.

The intersection of the triple planetary crisis and shipping potential to tackle these challenges.

A Pact to Navigate Intersectionality in Shipping

The report proposes creating a new agreement called the 2030 Shipping Pact For People and Nature (2030 SPPaN). This agreement would provide specific guidelines for the maritime sector to help them evaluate, decrease, and prevent any harmful effects on marine biodiversity and climate. If this pact is implemented quickly and thoroughly, it could help reverse the loss of biodiversity and address the climate crisis within this decade.

2030 SPPaN is supported and steered by four main pillars guiding the shipping industry towards more sustainable practices. These pillars are:

1. Ensuring justice and equity: This involves prioritizing human rights and respecting international agreements such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

2. Creating a culture of safety: Safe shipping is linked to seafarers’ rights and environmental protection. It requires adequate and well-maintained port and on-ship infrastructure.

3. Taking the Precautionary Approach: This means that uncertainty should not be used as a reason for inaction in the face of serious or irreversible environmental damage.

4. Recognizing nature-based solutions: The natural world and its complex ecosystems have the power to address and reverse the impacts of climate change.

By incorporating these pillars, the shipping industry can work towards more sustainable, just, and equitable practices.

Bringing a Holistic Approach to Shipping Decarbonization to COP28 in Dubai

The COP28 event, which was hosted by Equal Routes, the Climate Champions Team, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, and the UN Foundation, focused on discussing the impact of shipping on ocean health, productivity, and biodiversity in both the short and long term. The event identified the links between actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and those that would protect ocean health, anchored on best practices in the shipping community. Participants included Sara Olsvig, the International Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Ricardo Bosshard, the Director of WWF Chile, Marcelo Norsworthy, the Maritime Advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), and Concepcion Boo Arias, the Director for Global Partnerships & ESG at Maersk. The event guests, through a holistic and intersectionality approach, raised awareness of the co-benefits of shipping decarbonization for people and nature. They also highlighted concrete solutions that can be implemented today and provided guidance on how the maritime sector can assess, reduce, and avoid its negative impact on marine biodiversity, climate, and people.

Looking Ahead to 2024

At COP28 in Dubai, the shipping industry, government officials, NGOs, and regulators showed great enthusiasm towards the 2030 SPPaN. There was a keen interest in forming a community of action for the maritime industry to support the Pact and utilize climate solutions to benefit the ocean, human health, and biodiversity.

In 2024, we invite you to dare to be holistic with us by contributing your expertise, sharing current efforts, and identifying low-hanging fruits for the 2030 SPPaN. Focusing on the co-benefits of actions that feed two birds with one hand, so to speak, could go a long way in realizing the ambitious goals of 2030 SPPaN but also addressing the major hurdle of any regulatory, economic, and social barriers that could prevent action.

Email us at for more information on how to get involved.