It’s a tremendous opportunity, both for carbon mitigation and contributing to the global economy.

It’s a win-win situation. According to José María Figueres Olsen, the former president of Costa Rica, the international shipping industry could reduce carbon emissions, and at the same time lower costs – all by retrofitting vessels with eco-efficient marine technology that already exists.

As Chairman of the Carbon War Room, a non-profit organisation harnessing entrepreneurship to implement climate change solutions, Figueres (should this be Olsen or Figueres, you will have to ask the writer which is his family name) is passionate about helping the global shipping industry move to an efficient and clean fleet. And as a supporting member of the Carbon War Room, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) is working alongside him.

“Moving into the low carbon economy will not only reinvigorate economic activity the world over,” he says, “but also decouple our economy from carbon emissions. And that is better for business and our planet.”

He points out that if the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth largest carbon emitter. But with a career spanning private enterprise and public life, Figueres is a realist. He recognises the need for businesses to contribute to their bottom line, and policymakers to help them achieve that. 
Hence the Carbon War Room is proposing an enterprise-led solution. “Today we already have readily available off-the-shelf technologies that would allow us to reduce fuel consumption and therefore carbon emissions by 20-30%,” he explains.

The payback is extraordinary. Most of the technologies you can deploy on ships today to decrease their energy consumption and reduce their carbon emissions have a payback of 18-36 months. That’s a tremendous investment. It’s hard to find a business today with that rate of return.”
Figueres explains that the current global recession makes it the right time to act. There is unused shipping capacity; retrofitting ships would create jobs; dry docks could be rehabilitated; and marine technology enterprises would benefit from capital inflow. “It’s a tremendous opportunity, both for carbon mitigation and contributing to the global economy.”

He favours a global programme for installing eco-efficient marine technologies into vessels, although he recognises that new-build technologies offer even larger savings and that both retrofitting and new-build technologies will require a huge amount of capital. “But I’m convinced that if you bring together all the players and the sectors involved, you’re going to find innovative approaches to financing.”

He stresses this is a chance for the shipping industry – not usually renowned for innovation – to shine. “This is a terrific opportunity for the shipping industry to lead the way.”

Carbon War Room
The non-profit Carbon War Room brings together successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, policy experts and researchers to create market-driven solutions to climate change. Its current activities focus on shipping and city-led energy efficiency, with campaigns set to launch on aviation, geo-engineering and bio-fuels.

 Biography: José María Figueres Olsen

Age: 55

- Industrial Engineering degree from West Point, the United States Military Academy.
- Masters in Public Administration from Harvard.

- Elected the youngest ever president of Costa Rica, aged 39.
- Former Managing Director and CEO of the World Economic Forum.
- Founder of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force.
- Currently Chairman of the Carbon War Room, and CEO of CONCORDIA 21, a Madrid-based organisation promoting development and democracy.