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LETTER: Canada needs to unlock its maritime sector potential

According to the International Energy Agency, industrial ports and domestic shipping fleets are among the most effective places to achieve economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions and scale up hydrogen supply chains. The shipping industry, ferry operators and port authorities have an important role to play in Canada’s plans for a net-zero economy by 2050. The full-scale adoption of zero-emission ships will also create growth opportunities and expertise in Canada’s shipbuilding sector that will benefit coastal communities and others across the country.

The United Kingdom and Norway have detailed maritime climate plans that leverage ports and the development of zero-emission ships to achieve domestic climate goals and position themselves for a share of the potential trillion-dollar market associated with the global transition to cleaner shipping. Government-funded demonstration projects, procurement policies and ambitious targets proving zero-emission technologies are central to their plans because they help to overcome up-front capital costs and reduce private sector risk. The U.K.’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will see investment of more than 200 million pounds into modern ports, hydrogen hubs and clean maritime technology demonstration projects.

Canada is among a small group of countries with high potential for exporting clean hydrogen thanks to our low-carbon electricity and abundance of water. Competing in the emerging global hydrogen market will depend on our ability to build supply and demand at home. Ports provide a tremendous opportunity to scale-up hydrogen demand while having the added strategic benefit of being Canada’s gateway to the international energy marketplace.

Oceans North has made recommendations to the federal government to advance hydrogen port hubs, port electrification and zero-emission ships as key elements of a maritime sector climate plan under the new Climate Accountability Legislation.

The potential for the maritime sector to bring about new jobs and innovation critical to Canada’s economic recovery depends on the speed with which Canada develops and implements action. To achieve its net-zero by 2050 target, the first zero-emission ships must be in operation by 2030. Given that the average lifespan of a ship is 30 to 50 years, this means shipping companies and ferry operators must soon have clear direction and financial support to ensure their capital plans align with Canada’s climate goal.

Moving ahead of the International Maritime Organization’s less ambitious agenda to reduce emissions by half by 2050 and towards net zero is big news for Canada’s maritime sector. Canadian companies like Ballard, Corvus, Hydrogenics and others are leading the clean shipping revolution that is happening in other countries. It is time for Canada unlock the potential of the maritime sector to help cut emissions across the entire economy. Doing so is not just good for the environment, it is critical to securing our place as a leading energy supplier in the future clean energy economy.

Brent Dancey, director of marine climate action
Oceans North


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