The US, UK and 17 other countries pledged at the United Nations Global Climate Summit on Wednesday to reduce shipping industry emissions by creating zero-emission shipping routes amid growing concerns about coastline air pollution from Los Angeles ports … and Long Beach.
The agreement, called the Clydebank Declaration, says the countries will work together to invest in clean energy infrastructure in ports at both ends of major trade routes, creating at least six green corridors by mid-decade, ultimately making this possible. to move ships from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources. If these changes take effect, governments could require that only emission-free ships travel from Shanghai to Los Angeles, for example, or from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to New York. The initiative is part of last week’s announced efforts to reduce emissions from the marine sector to zero by 2050.
Other signatory countries at the Scotland Summit are Denmark, Japan, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Chile, Costa Rice, Belgium, Fiji, Finland, Ireland, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
Globally, the shipping industry is the main source of global warming greenhouse gas emissions, largely because most of its ships use one of the dirtiest diesel fuels. It is a fuel with a much higher carbon content than diesel used in cars. Cargo ships collectively emit an average of 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, roughly the same as all coal-fired power plants in the United States combined.
Calling the declaration “a big step forward,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that the US will help lead efforts to limit the industry’s environmental impact.
“In shipping, in particular, there is a paradox. On the one hand, pound for pound is generally the least carbon-intensive means of transporting goods, ”he said. “And yet there is so much of it, consuming so much fuel, that it is a huge source of emissions.”
The announcement comes as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest in the United States, are facing increased attention to cargo ship congestion and worsening air pollution.
When cargo ships burn fuel, they emit more than carbon dioxide, spewing out a combination of smog-forming pollutants, including ozone, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, which has been associated with increased mortality.
In a global supply chain that lasts for months, dozens of cargo ships sit idle off the coast of Southern California, sometimes for weeks. There were 103 ships bound for Los Angeles and Long Beach on Tuesday, about the same number as the week before, according to the Southern California Maritime Exchange. At normal times, there is usually one ship waiting – or not at all.
Traffic jams have mainly attracted attention due to the resulting shortage of goods and higher costs, which can affect holiday shopping. But environmentalists are far more concerned about the health implications of people living near ports in Wilmington, San Pedro and Long Beach.
Air quality data for 2020 released by the Port of Los Angeles shows that pollution has skyrocketed since October last year as the number of ships awaiting unloading began to rise. There are no similar data for this year yet.
“It only makes an already bad air pollution situation worse,” said Adrian Martinez, a lawyer for the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice, which is calling for local air quality regulators to intervene. “This is a blow or two for our region, and the public health crisis does not seem to be getting the center stage. The only crisis is the inability to transport the cargo. “
By 2023, ocean going vessels are expected to surpass heavy diesel trucks and become the largest source of nitrogen oxide pollution, forming smog, in Southern California, according to forecasts by the South Coast Air Quality Administration.
Globally, greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry are expected to double by 2050. The threat of this increase has put renewed pressure on the UN body responsible for regulating shipping to adopt more ambitious climate targets in line with the countries’ emission reduction commitments. 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
But there were few signs of that. An organization known as the International Maritime Organization has repeatedly postponed the adoption of emission control regulations in recent years.
At the heart of what makes it difficult to reform the shipping industry are many of the same challenges that countries face in the electrification of cars and trucks. Technology exists to convert ships from diesel to cleaner energy sources such as hydrogen, green ammonia and batteries, but these fuels are not available on the scale required.
Although a group of large companies, including Amazon and Ikea, pledged last month to use zero-emission ships by 2040, such ships are currently unable to travel on major routes as most ports are not equipped to refuel them.
In response to growing American dissatisfaction with a disrupted supply chain, President Biden announced last month that the Port of Los Angeles would remain open “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” to help bridge the gap. Major retailers have agreed to clear their cargo faster at ports, making room for additional containers. A similar plan has already been implemented in the port of Long Beach.
Chris Cannon, chief sustainability officer for the Port of Los Angeles, said it was too early to tell whether the increased port hours had succeeded in reducing the waiting time for ships to wait for a dock.
The port is still struggling with huge stacks of shipping containers and looking for new locations away from the terminal where they can be moved so arriving ships can unload faster.
Ed Avol, a professor of preventive medicine at USC, said it was difficult to predict how air pollution from idle cargo ships would affect coastal residents.
“There is no straight line that we can draw to say, ‘If you are subjected to such concentration, you will get such a result,” Avol said. “But we know from a variety of studies that there is a link between increased exposure and short and long term health effects.”
For residents living close to ports who already suffer from asthma and other respiratory or heart problems, monthly increases in air pollution can “unsettle them,” Avol said.
According to a plan adopted by the Los Angeles Harbor and Long Beach Commissioners in 2017, the port complex is to be converted to an emission-free facility by 2035. As a first major step towards that goal, the ports voted last year to introduce roughly $ 20 for shipping containers that will be used to help trucking companies buy less polluting vehicles.
But when the pandemic began, the ports delayed the collection. According to a recently announced plan, they won’t start harvesting it until April.