Port of Tacoma

Port of Tacoma makes 2040 decarbonization pledge

The Port of Tacoma Commission on Tuesday voted to phase out greenhouse gas emissions under the port’s direct control by 2040, accelerating the target from 2050. 

Image credit Port of Tacoma

This action primarily focuses on addressing Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gases, which encompass emissions from port-owned buildings, vehicles, and electricity consumption for port facilities. These are the emissions that the port can directly manage, as opposed to Scope 3 emissions, which originate from sources outside the port’s immediate control, including cargo ships, drayage trucks, and facilities leased to private companies.

“The port takes seriously our commitment to the environment and clean air,” said Deanna Keller, Port of Tacoma Commission president.

“Accelerating our net zero emission target gives us an opportunity to demonstrate climate leadership and take action where we have direct control.” 

To remind, in 2021, the Northwest ports of Vancouver, British Columbia, Tacoma, Seattle, and the combined container operations of The Northwest Seaport Alliance committed to eliminate emissions from seaport-related activities by 2050.

In a collaboration among the four ports, the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy sought to meet this target through changes in equipment, fuels, and infrastructure.

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To achieve the 2040 decarbonization goal, the Port of Tacoma has devised several strategies for managing its assets effectively. These include transitioning to electric vehicles, replacing natural gas in buildings with electricity, and purchasing renewable fuels to replace fossil fuels.

Additionally, offset credits may be acquired for any remaining emissions that cannot be eliminated through other measures.

These initiatives will require significant investments in multi-million-dollar projects, such as the recently authorized Administration Building Electric Vehicle Charging Station project from February.

The Port of Tacoma’s effort is part of the regional Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy for phasing out seaport-related emissions. The port is a Managing Member of The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), which manages container operations in both Tacoma and Seattle.

In 2021, the Port of Tacoma adopted its Clean Air Strategy Implementation Plan, which includes:

  • Developing and implementing a policy to incorporate sustainable building practices in new port-owned buildings and major remodel projects;
  • Installing electric vehicle charging stations at five port locations;
  • Transitioning the port’s fleet to plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles.

Simultaneously, the Port of Seattle adopted an action plan which identifies strategies through 2030 to halve greenhouse gas emissions, including commitments to:

  • Complete the Seattle Waterfront Clean Energy Strategy to plan for the transition to zero-emissions equipment, locomotives, vehicles, vessels, and buildings along the waterfront;
  • Install shore power infrastructure at all cruise ship berths and achieve a 100% connection rate for homeport cruise ship calls;
  • Phase out fossil natural gas in port-owned buildings and transition all port-owned light-duty fleet vehicles to electric or renewable fuels.

Specifically, the NWSA’s Terminal 5 welcomed MSC Brunella in April 2023 as the first vessel to plug-in into the terminal’s shore power infrastructure.

This inaugural plug-in on April 10 marked the commissioning phase of the Terminal’s shore power project component, successfully utilizing clean energy from the City of Seattle’s electrical grid to power the vessel while at berth.

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The NWSA is responsible for many of the Scope 1 and 2 emissions that occur in the Tacoma Harbor and the NWSA’s Environmental Working Group is considering a similar acceleration of Scope 1 and Scope 2 targets.

The Port of Tacoma is also working with the NWSA to reduce Scope 3 emissions through actions like the Husky Terminal Shore Power project and the South Intermodal Yard Electric Yard Tractor Project.