Making shipping greener will be a key item on the agenda for the administration of US President Joe Biden at the next annual climate talks by world leaders, a US official said.

Jane Lubchenco, deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the Global Maritime Forum’s annual summit that presidential climate envoy John Kerry’s Green Shipping challenge will be one of the US government’s key initiatives at the COP27 conference in November.

“We are working hard to ensure that green shipping is a highlight of COP27,” she said. “We’re really elevating the importance of this.”

This year’s event, formally known as the Conference of the Parties of the climate treaty UNFCCC, will see officials from nations around the world meet in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Shiekh.

The White House announced the Green Shipping Challenge in June, calling on governments, ports, carriers, cargo owners and others to bring forward concrete proposals to push the industry towards zero emissions in 2050.

The launch cited one of Kerry’s favourite lines about shipping that Lubchenco repeated at the summit: if the industry were a country, it would be the world’s eighth largest greenhouse gas emitter.

She said the initiative’s announcements might focus on the deployment of zero-emissions vessels, production of green fuels or the launching of green corridors.

At the COP26 conference in Glasgow last year, the US was one of a coalition of nations that signed a declaration aiming for zero-carbon shipping by 2050 and the Clydebank Declaration on Green Shipping Corridors, and it launched the First Movers Coalition aiming to use the purchasing power of companies to push decarbonisation of hard-to-abate industries.

Lubchenco also highlighted the funding opportunities made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

“The Biden administration has made it a priority to keep the 1.5-degree target within reach,” she said. “That is what we need to be doing. It’s not easy. It’s really important. And international shipping continues to be a key sector enabling that to happen.”

Jane Lubchenco (right), deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaks at the Global Maritime Forum annual summit. The event was held in New York. Photo: Eric Priante Martin