U.S. Congress urged to pass bill to zero out shipping pollution

A group of 31 environmental and community organizations and 13 industry organizations have sent letters to U.S. Congress calling for the support of the Clean Shipping Act of 2022.

Introduced by Representatives Alan Lowenthal and Nanette Barragá in July this year, the bill aims to clean up the shipping industry, protect the health of port communities, address environmental injustice, and provide solutions to the climate crisis.

Specifically, the passage of the bill would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate regulations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from marine vessels that call on ports in the US – reaching 100% GHG emission reductions by 2040 – and to require zero in-port emissions from marine vessels by 2030.

“Now is the time for the U.S. to be more ambitious than ever on climate action. In addition to achieving life-saving emissions reductions, this bill will help spur the development of the zero-emission vessel market and accelerate zero-emission research and demonstration across the maritime supply chain. With so much at stake, we call on the U.S. to commit to helping achieve a zero-emissions shipping industry and urge Congress to pass this bill,” environmental organisations stated.

“Now is the time for the U.S. to be a global climate leader in addressing pollution from the shipping industry. The European Union is already taking steps to reduce GHG emissions from ships calling on ports in the EU with its FuelEU Maritime proposed regulation. To advance the U.S.’ competitiveness in marine vessel decarbonization and effectively mitigate the global climate crisis, we urge Congress to direct and mandate EPA to end all fossil-fuel pollution from the global shipping industry,” according to the industry players.

In July 2021, the European Commission presented its ‘Fit for 55’ package of legislative proposals aimed at ensuring that the EU will achieve the targets set in the European Green Deal, the Climate Law and the Paris Agreement. The package includes the FuelEU Maritime proposal, which aims to stimulate demand for clean fuels and help to cut carbon emissions within the maritime sector. Low-carbon fuels should represent 86-88% of the international maritime transportation fuel mix by 2050 to contribute to the EU’s targets.

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For decades, fossil-fueled ships, owned largely by international corporations, have brought significant levels of air pollution into largely working-class communities and communities in and near U.S. ports. It is imperative that Congress protect Americans from further exposure to ship pollution, and pathways now exist that can transition the shipping industry from its dependency on fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion, according to NGO Pacific Environment.

Zero-emission fuels and vessels need to be deployed at scale over the next decade to achieve full decarbonization of the shipping sector. If enacted, the Clean Shipping Act of 2022 would help prompt this shift in decarbonization strategies, enabling the deployment of advanced zero-emission technologies and minimizing the risk for manufacturers and suppliers, the NGO stressed.

By tackling shipping emissions here at home, the U.S. can set the international standard for ocean-based climate action and assert pressure on the International Maritime Organization, the international governing body for the shipping industry, to adopt more aggressive GHG emission reduction goals.

“The Clean Shipping Act is the game-changer we need to clean up the shipping industry and improve public health in port communities, including communities of color living near the Port of Los Angeles. The support of the legislation by the environmental community and the shipping industry shows that zero-emissions shipping is the future, and America should lead the way. To decarbonize the shipping industry at the speed and scale necessary to address the climate crisis, EPA must set clear standards for zero-emission fuels and zero-emission port technology. Let’s get it done,” said Congresswoman Nanette Barragán.

The call comes amid global efforts to curb climate change presented at this year’s COP 27.

“As world leaders come together at COP27 in Egypt to discuss solutions to the climate crisis, we are reminded that the maritime sector must do its part to help the planet avoid the worst impacts of global warming. We urge Congress to pass this bill to address the climate emergency and protect our oceans and public health,” said Antonio Santos, Federal Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment.

“We must reduce emissions now in order to be on track to meet our climate goals. This bill will not only lessen shipping emissions, but it will also reduce air and ocean pollution that has disproportionately impacted frontline communities near ports and along coasts. Congress should act swiftly to pass this legislation,” Rachael DeWitt, Manager of Government Relations at Ocean Conservancy concluded.