From the return of sails on cargo ships to shipping giant Maersk’s quest to drastically reduce emissions, the shipping industry has been in the spotlight this week at The Optimist Daily—and for good reason: as one of the highest polluting industries in the world, much has to change in order to reach the targets set forth by the Paris Agreement. And while many of the new technologies that will clean up the shipping industry are still years away from being invented, there’s one thing that should dramatically reduce emissions starting January 1, 2020.
That’s because, on that date, the shipping industry will have to comply with rules designed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to significantly curb pollution produced by the world’s ships. Amid a broader push towards cleaner energy markets, the IMO is set to ban shipping vessels using fuel with a sulfur content higher than 0.5%, compared to levels of 3.5% at present.
Currently, the most commonly used marine fuel is thought to have a sulfur content of around 2.7%. This is a huge deal given that sulfur is a major component of acid rain, which harms vegetation and wildlife, and contributes to the acidification of the oceans.