A confronting statement perhaps?  But, in the context of climate change, the natural resources consumed and  CO2 produced for, in many cases, a few weeks of pleasure a year, it’s hard to argue it’s anything but unsustainable.

Although the industry has a positive socio-economic impact through the many businesses supported and people employed, like any industry reliant on fossil fuels, it needs to decarbonise if it wants to be a responsible industry that can thrive in the future.

The Decade Of Change

In this decade, the challenge will be to balance the benefits of yachting against the environmental impact, whilst improving efficiency and accelerating the transition to zero emissions yachts (ZEY).

Henk De Vries, from Feadship, expressed this in stark terms when he addressed the survival strategy for the remaining eight years of this decade in an article published by the Water Revolution Foundation – YETI moves into critical test phase and calls upon yachts for fleet review – 3 Dec 2021

"If we do nothing and we just build the boats we currently build, then we will be history. There is a solution and it is not complicated.

Whilst there is ambition from some, the pace is slow, engagement is poor, there is a lack of urgency, and resistance due to the additional costs involved. The current market boom that COVID has arguably precipitated, has probably not helped the cause – people are too busy selling/building yachts!

Furthermore, some of the ZEY solutions are not yet proven, and alternative fuels are not available at scale.  However, progress is coming at a pace that could make ZEY a possibility by the next available build slots (mid-decade).

In the meantime, there is still much that can be done with current technologies, alternative fuels and operational changes, that could make a difference. 

Where We Are

It is clear with the release of the IPCC 2021 Report and COP26, time is running out fast!

There is a limited window in which to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and still remain on track to meet the objective of the Paris Agreement; to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.

The IMO with their GHG Strategy (set to be updated in 2023) and governments are now acting with increased urgency.  Countries like the USA, UK and the EU-27 are setting targets of at least a 50% reduction in CO2 compared to 1990 by 2030 as a critical milestone on the way to achieving net zero by 2050 – yachting, should be even more ambitious.

Though it is true that the CO2 emissions from yachting are tiny compared to overall amount, and only about 0.3% of shipping’s emissions (Fourth IMO GHG Study 2020) it is still a sizeable and growing amount – especially confronting if considered on a per capita basis. 

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To put this into perspective the yachts in the study emitted a similar amount of CO2 to Nicaragua, with a population of 6.5 million.

The true amount could be double, as the study did not include the use of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) or shore-power and its upstream emissions.

The business as usual (BAU) trendline suggests we could be on track to double our CO2 emissions by 2030.

How Much CO2

The following question was raised by a superyacht owner at the recent Boat International Explorer Yacht Summit.

"Can anyone tell me the CO2 emissions from my yacht use?

What was striking that many industry professionals didn’t know either!

"After all, if we do not know the size of the problem, how can we possibly change it?

There are a multitude of emissions in a full life cycle analysis (LCA) including those from equipment, materials and production.  However, the CO2 from the fuel burnt and electricity consumed in the operational cycle, are by far the most significant and not hard to calculate.

If you are concerned, or just curious about your yacht or fleet CO2 emissions from fuel and shore-power, Superyacht2030 has developed a simple calculator that will help – best if monthly figures are used.

CO2 Emissions Calculator


  1. EU Well-to-Wake Factor approx. 3.8 t/CO2 per tMGO/MDO
  2. Electricity carbon intensity is sourced from government websites and other recognised sources.
  3. At this stage the carbon intensity of electrical power in the Caribbean is not included due to the availability of reliable data. However, as with many small islands, they are likely reliant on fossil fuels for power generation, so a country like Cyprus may offer a useful comparison.


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Where We Are Going

In this decade there will be increasing environmental headwinds, such as policy changes, increased regulation, carbon tax, and societal pressure. To face this head on, the industry will need to be proactive, demonstrate leadership and change.

It will require a collaborative approach and a systemic change throughout the whole ecosystem, including design, production, operation, and refit, if we are to avoid being consigned to history.

Crucially, as the ultimate “discretionary expense” our survival will be heavily reliant on responsible and motivated owners who are willing to pay the “green premium” (a term penned by Bill Gates in his book “How to Avoid A Climate Disaster”) that will be necessary to reduce emissions and decarbonise yachting.

The goal of Superyacht2030 is to speak honestly about the future, without green washing, to acknowledge the challenges, support ideas and solutions, and champion companies and individuals who are who are making a real difference.

If you would like to be part of this journey and stay up to date with the latest developments, insight and opinion, sign-up below.

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