Associated British Ports sets net-zero target, pledges £2bn of investment in energy transition

Image: ABP.

The headline target and investment pledge were confirmed on Tuesday (28 February) as part of a new sweeping sustainability strategy called ‘Ready for Tomorrow’.

Regarding net-zero, Associated British Ports (ABP) has set a 2040 deadline covering its Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions. It has already reduced absolute emissions across these scopes by 38% between 2014 and 2021.

The net-zero target entails delivering a further 90% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040, against a 2021 baseline. The residual emissions will be neutralised using offsetting.

In a statement, ABP said that an earlier target year for net-zero operations than 2040 would be “too dependent on optimistic assumptions related to the pace of technological innovation”. It is seeking to electrify technologies wherever possible, rather than relying on alternative fuels.

ABP has stopped short of setting a numerical target to cut Scope 3 (indirect) emissions at this point, despite the fact that most businesses see Scope 3 emissions accounting for the majority of their overall footprint. The business’s group head of strategy Max Harris has stated that this decision was taken “due to the lack of official guidance for ports globally”.

Harris added that ABP is keen to collaborate with other organisations to develop and scale emissions accounting methodologies for Scope 3, and that it will invest in improved data collection on Scope 3 emissions as well as other environmental indicators. Other topics covered by the strategy are air quality, biodiversity, waste and water.

£2bn investment plans

The sustainability strategy document confirms that ABP is planning to invest around £600m to decarbonise its own operations between 2022 and 2040, plus a further £1.4bn to drive decarbonisation across the wider shipping value chain.

Regarding investment in operations, priorities include improving efficiency and increasing onsite renewable energy generation. Most (17) of ABF’s 21 ports currently have onsite renewable projects. The UK’s largest commercial rooftop solar array is at the Port of Hull.

Much of the investment in the value chain will be delivered in partnership with ABP customers and other organisations in the sector. Focus areas for investment include floating offshore wind, low-carbon hydrogen production, hydrogen fuel switching and carbon capture and storage.

ABP has stated that its definition of partnership also includes the UK Government, and emphasised that it will be unable to deliver its plans without enabling policies.

“Collaboration is at the centre of all solutions to the climate challenge,” said ABP chief executive Henrik L Pedersen.

“No company, NGO, or government agency can drive the agenda alone. We must work together to speed up the planning process for the development of new energy infrastructure, and we must incentivise British involvement in high growth industries like floating offshore wind.”

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere has welcomed ABP’s news today, stating that it is “investing in our future” and working in tandem with the government’s “hundreds of millions of pounds of funding in greener, cleaner vessels and infrastructure”.

In February, the UK Government announced more than £130m for maritime decarbonisation, confirming a £77m package and then a separate £60m package. It is advocating for the global shipping sector to reach ‘absolute zero’ CO2 emissions by 2050.  Interim goals include launching at least one large zero-emission vessel on UK seas by 2025 and creating at least six zero-emission short-route shipping corridors this decade.

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