US: Clean Shipping Act 2023 introduced to help curb GHG emissions from ships

Members of the U.S. Congress have introduced the Clean Shipping Act of 2023, to set a path to eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the United States.

Pacific Environment

As informed, the new legislation was introduced by Congresswoman Nanette Barragán, Congressman Robert Garcia, and Senator Alex Padilla, on 8 June.

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 by giving the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate carbon intensity standards for maritime fuel. Technological pathways exist to make this possible, the officials noted.

“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 in my district near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 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 successfully decarbonize the shipping industry at the speed and scale necessary to address the climate crisis, the EPA must set clear standards for zero-emission fuels and zero-emission port technology. Let’s get it done,” said Congresswoman Barragán.

“The Clean Shipping Act of 2023 is a strong, necessary step that will make our maritime ports greener and address ongoing challenges contributing to the global climate crisis,” said Congressman Garcia. 

“Not only does this bill drastically decrease shipping emissions in the United States, but it brings long-awaited justice to our port-adjacent communities that have suffered the consequences of port pollution for far too long.” 

“This World Ocean Day, I am proud to introduce legislation that improves our shipping industry by reducing emissions in maritime transportation and simultaneously protecting coastal communities,” said Senator Padilla. 

“California’s port communities have been forced to shoulder the brunt of shipping pollution for too long. The health of our communities and the health of our planet requires us forward thinking and ambitious—we owe it to future generations.”

Global emissions from all vessels account for about 3% of total GHG emissions each year; if international shipping was its own country, it would rank sixth on the list of largest GHG emitters globally.

The American Lung Association has found that the Los Angeles metropolitan area has among the worst smog pollution in the nation – and some of the worst air pollution, overall. A major contributor to this crisis is emissions from ocean vessels that operate out of the Ports of LA and Long Beach.

“This legislation introduced by Congressman Garcia, Congresswoman Nanette Barragán, and Senator Padilla will incentivize industry and innovation to develop, scale and deploy zero-emission shipping technologies. Congress must pass this bill if they’re serious about tackling the climate crisis,” said Katherine Tsantiris, Associate Director of Government Relations at Ocean Conservancy.

“The shipping industry has been polluting communities for decades. But recent port expansions have been especially devastating for those living closest to the harbors where large ships spew toxic diesel exhaust that worsens air quality and contributes to the climate crisis. People living near ports deserve to breathe clean air, and the Clean Shipping Act will help make that a reality,” stated Katherine García, Director of Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign.

The bill was also endorsed by the Sierra Club, Pacific Environment, Ocean Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, and GreenLatinos.

“Ship pollution continues to threaten port-adjacent communities across the U.S. and around the world. The Clean Shipping Act is urgently needed to protect the health of port-side communities as well as address the climate crisis. We urge Congress and the Biden administration to act on the legislation now to drive down emissions from the shipping industry and ports,” Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Senior Air Quality Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund, highlighted.

“If the U.S. wants to reach its climate goals, the reduction of shipping emissions is key,” said Terrance Bankston, Senior Ports and Freights Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“Furthermore, protecting our marine, port, and non-port communities is vital to that effort. From New Jersey to Delaware, vulnerable groups lack appropriate protection from destructive health-related impacts caused by obsolete shipping practices. Vessels and their emissions are increasing in frequency and will continue to do so unless clean energy or technologies are adopted. Representative Garcia’s bill best addresses the devastating impacts on the health of nearby vulnerable communities and the planet.”