Accelerating shipping's climate change transition, and the role of UK shore power

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates how the shipping industry can make a transition so that it plays its fair part in meeting the global Paris Agreement goals on climate change. Shipping has undergone major transitions in the past, such as from sail to steam. The literature posits that addressing climate change will be the sixth such transition, and industry and governments agree that the sector's greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. However, there are numerous gaps in the literature regarding this potential transition. First, the required scale and speed of transition is contested. Second, there is uncertainty around the combinations of technologies and practice changes that will be necessary. Third, it is unclear what policies and governance structures will be required. The thesis takes a mixed-method approach to address these gaps, with four analyses at different scales: at global, EU, UK and port levels. The first analysis is a quantitative study of global carbon budgets to establish feasible quantified pathways for Paris-aligned shipping carbon dioxide reductions. Its conclusion that deep emissions cuts are required by 2030 is a timely challenge to existing targets and to the industry's focus on 2050, ahead of a global strategy review in 2023. The second is a novel application of the concept of "committed emissions" to the EU shipping sector, concluding that meeting such targets requires a focus on reducing the operational emissions of existing ships, not just a focus on new fuels. The third investigates one of these operational measures - shore power in the UK - using two transitions frameworks: Technological Innovation Systems and the Multiple Streams Approach. It concludes that political factors are preventing the introduction of policies that could accelerate the deployment of UK shore power and identifies means to overcome these challenges. The fourth is a case-study at the Port of Aberdeen to analyse how, in the face of economic barriers, the financial case for shore power can be improved. This thesis presents evidence that shipping decarbonisation measures are dependent on policies and actions at local, national and global scales, but that coordination between and within these levels is disjointed and often in conflict. This represents a polycentric governance challenge for shipping. The need for an accelerated transition is urgent, and its delivery in time to meet the Paris climate goals will require stronger integration and alignment of policy regimes at multiple levels.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlice Larkin (Supervisor) & Claire Hoolohan (Supervisor)


  • transitions
  • carbon budgets
  • shore power
  • committed emissions
  • maritime
  • shipping
  • climate change

Cite this