Amazon, Ikea, Unilever and Michelin are among nine multinational companies that have committed to switching all of their ocean freight to vessels powered by zero-carbon fuels by 2040.

Through a new cargo owner-led network facilitated by the Aspen Institute, a group of companies, which also includes Inditex, Patagonia, Brooks Running, Frog Bikes and Tchibo, stated that fuels used to reach the 2040 target must be scalable and have no greenhouse gas emissions, including production.

Named Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV), the coalition aims for ambitious action to accelerate maritime shipping decarbonisation. It claims that today, shipping powered by heavy fuel oil produces 1bn tonnes of climate pollution each year – as much as a G7 country or all of America’s coal-fired power plants combined.

Signatories to the 2040 ambition statement are also calling on policymakers worldwide to take swift and ambitious action to advance maritime shipping decarbonization in their domestic, regional, and international leadership capacities.

 “The time to act is now and we welcome other cargo owner companies who want to lead on addressing climate change to join us in collaboration,” said Edgar Blanco, director, net-zero carbon at Amazon.

“We need to speed up the transformation towards zero emission ocean shipping. By collaborating with like-minded partners, companies, and organizations across the value chain we can create strong movements. Therefore, we have today signed the ambition statement Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels,” stated Elisabeth Munck af Rosenschöld sustainability manager supply chain operations at Ikea.

The coZEV signatories have sent an important demand signal to the shipping value chain and bunker fuel producers that freight customers want zero-carbon shipping and they expect the industry to rapidly accelerate its decarbonisation efforts in the years ahead. The companies stated they will not consider fossil gas, or liquified natural gas (LNG), as zero-carbon fuel in their ocean shipping transitions.

“2040 may seem far away, but experts in this hard-to-abate sector know that vast new zero-carbon fuel supply chains must be built and numerous actors must come together to launch the first large scale projects from financiers to fuel producers, ports to individual ship owners, carriers, and of course, their customers, the cargo owners whose business underpins the entire enterprise,” Aspen Institute said in a statement.

Climate advocates called Amazon’s and Ikea’s fossil-free cargo shipping commitment historic, but too weak. The Ship It Zero coalition, which recently called out Amazon and Ikea for their role in shipping emissions, urged retailers to take action a decade sooner and abandon what they call “dirty ships” by 2030.

“Today’s pledge is an important guidepost for the future of maritime shipping, but 2040 is simply too distant a horizon for the retail sector to address the enormous health and climate impacts from its cargo ships. If major retail brands truly want to do their fair share on climate change, they need to be on a course correction now, not 19 years from now. Cleaner shipping solutions already exist, and major retail brands like Amazon and Ikea must champion them,” said Kendra Ulrich, shipping campaigns director, an environmental group that together with Pacific Environment leads the Ship It Zero campaign.