Photo: Courtesy of Port of Los Angeles

Pacific Coast govts set sights on port electrification and maritime decarbonisation

Pacific Coast governments — California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia — have signed a new Statement of Cooperation (SOC), including an initiative to pursue zero-carbon shipping and decarbonize port equipment and operations.

Pacific Coast
Courtesy of Port of Los Angeles

The U.S. West Coast states and B.C. have some of the world’s most ambitious transportation electrification and emission standards. Extending this ambition to the seas will save thousands of lives in West Coast port communities and will help to bring the global shipping industry in alignment with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“The global shipping industry causes tremendous harm to port and coastal communities in its relentless pursuit of profit, so we are thrilled to see West Coast leaders stepping up to decarbonize maritime shipping and to electrify ports,” Teresa Bui, State Policy Director for Climate at environmental organization Pacific Environment, said.

“While this agreement is a positive step forward, we’re disappointed that it doesn’t include specific mandates for implementation, or acknowledge the public health crisis of ship pollution. We look forward to working with these jurisdictions and their ports to more rapidly reduce ship pollution and achieve 100% zero-emission shipping by 2040.”

For decades, fossil-fueled cargo ships have brought significant levels of toxic air pollution into these primarily Black, Brown, and Indigenous-populated working-class communities. If shipping was its own country, it would be the sixth largest contributor of climate-warming emissions, ahead of Germany. And on its current trajectory, maritime trade could grow by as much as 150% by 2050 over today’s trade volume. Absent swift action to decarbonize the industry, shipping emissions will derail concerted efforts to mitigate climate change and achieve the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement.

Momentum for zero-emission shipping, green shipping corridors, and clean energy ports is gaining steam, but we need action from all levels of government and collaborative engagement from the industry, according to Pacific Environment.

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Port cities can follow the examples of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Minneapolis, which passed ambitious city council resolutions calling on major importers to achieve zero-emission shipping by 2030.

Major retail corporations including Amazon, IKEA, Target, and Patagonia have committed to zero-carbon shipping by 2040. The COP26 Clydebank Declaration for Clean Shipping Corridors has created a coalition of 24 countries committed to fossil-free shipping corridors by 2025. But all of these efforts need mandatory policies to turn ambition into accountability, Pacific Environment added.

The West Coast has an opportunity to lead on setting bold mandates for decarbonization and to send clear market signals to the global shipping industry. There is record funding available for ports to transition their infrastructure to zero emissions.

In the U.S., Congress appropriated billions of dollars for zero-emission maritime and port projects through the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, including $3 billion to reduce air pollutions at ports. Coupled with bold commitments and policy mandates, government funding can spur private investments and enable ports to transition to zero-emission shipping and clean the air, skies, and seas for present and future generations.