The Columbia SIPA Capstone team’s report examined the feasibility to decarbonize the global marine shipping sector by transitioning to zero-carbon hydrogen-based fuels, which will directly reduce a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollutants within the transportation sector and accelerate the commercial adoption of clean-energy fuels. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) reports that global shipping accounts for more than 3% of annual global emissions (10% by 2050). Shifting to  a zero-carbon hydrogen-based fuel shipping industry could yield long-term economic and environmental benefits. Like any transitional technology, the adoption of hydrogen-based fuel is a chicken-and-egg situation,  in which demand is reliant on the supply and development of the supply chain is dependent on consumer demand. As such, this report recommended the following actionable steps that major market movers –shipping companies, oil and gas, policymakers – could take to ensure the transition.

  • Strengthening coalitions - Shipping regions, such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, or Northeast Americas, should establish trans-oceanic coalitions between government, energy-industry, shipping, and financial institutions.
  • Partnering for hydrogen-based fuel offtake - Shipping companies must partner with fuel suppliers from ports of major trade routes.
  • Aggregating clean shipping demand - First-mover ports must work within their region to aggregate economy-wide hydrogen-based fuel demand.
  • Standardizing fuel production - Fuel producers must coalesce around standard production methods for green hydrogen and ammonia while continuing to innovate.
  • Financing the transition -  Private and public capital must work with fuel producers to de-risk investments and lower the cost of capital for new fuel production and infrastructure.


Lewis, Jonathan. Building a Globally Networked Supply of Zero-Carbon Shipping Fuel. Clean Air Task Force. July 8, 2020.