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Confronting Climate Change

Taking the ocean into account is critical for successfully addressing climate change, and addressing climate change is critical for the future of the ocean

Ports and Communities

Ocean Conservancy’s Ports and Communities Team is embedded within the Shipping Emissions program. We are working on a multipronged approach to decarbonizing maritime ports. Ports are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions due to the high energy consumption of ships, cargo-handling equipment and other port-related activities. The process of port decarbonization involves transitioning to cleaner energy sources and improving operational practices to reduce emissions.

What is a port community?

A port community refers to the social and economic relationships that exist among the various decision-makers and community members within the port environment. These relationships can be influenced by factors like culture, history, politics and geography. Each of these factors has a significant impact on the development and sustainability of the port and its surrounding communities.

How does decarbonizing maritime ports create a healthier ocean?

At Ocean Conservancy, our advocacy for the global ocean is predicated on our commitment to ocean justice—which we define as the fair and equitable distribution of both the benefits of the ocean’s bounty and the burdens of its complex care. Because of the myriad ways in which global ocean inequalities manifest, our work as an ocean advocacy organization must be thoughtful, agile, intentional and always oriented toward our vision: a healthier ocean, protected by a more just world.

Activity in American seaports is responsible for about a quarter of the United States Gross Domestic Product. Port communities, which are often lower-income and communities of color, bear a disproportionate share of pollution and other impacts from port activities. These disproportionate impacts are part of a multitude of other factors including overt and institutional racism, lower levels of funding for healthcare and education, and disproportionate pollution impacts from other industrial sources beyond shipping and ports. These factors cumulatively impact port communities.

Our objective while facing these challenges is to decarbonize maritime ports which promotes a healthier ocean in myriad ways: Decarbonization reduces emissions, improving the air quality and ultimately helping to slow down the rate of climate change. Port community members can benefit from decarbonization through increased quality of life with reduced health risks from cleaner air.

Ports Justice Project

Ocean Conservancy’s Shipping Emissions program works in direct partnership with our Ocean Justice program, a priority institutional effort working toward a future of greater global equity in which all communities have the power and resources to equitably care for, steward and benefit from the ocean. This collaboration represents a community-centered effort to decarbonize maritime ports through the Ports Justice Project. This project addresses the impacts of port pollution on port communities. We seek to empower and elevate the community voices that have been historically marginalized and excluded from decision-making processes that impact human health and well-being.

In the summer of 2022, we embarked on a journey to establish good faith and bring resources into four port communities: those of South FloridaSouth Louisiana, the San Francisco Bay Area and Hampton Roads, Virginia. The goal of the project is to build sustainable partnerships and broaden support for ocean action. Our extensive research and community outreach have shown that resident leaders in these port communities are focused on immediate concerns, including the direct health impacts from air and other pollution from the shipping industry in these ports. We want to resource community-led projects and environmental justice groups committed to region-specific solutions (with an emphasis on the ports), recognizing that these solutions are inextricably linked with climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ports and Communities Grants

The Ports Justice Project offers grants to support Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)-led and BIPOC-serving grassroots organizations within our four key regions. You can reach out to the Port Community Liaison in your region to get an update on when our application process opens.

What Can You Do?

You, too, are an advocate! Efforts to reduce emissions and promote sustainable practices in and around ports are not only critical for the health of our planet but also for the health and well-being of the communities that live and work near ports. Your community depends on your knowledge, engagement and expertise. Whether your work supports decarbonization through education, community/civic engagement or self-directed learning, you too can make an impact on creating a healthier ocean protected by a more just world. Your advocacy for these and other ocean-based issues is very important—and most appreciated—by Ocean Conservancy.

Meet Your Port Community Liaison

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