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North American Ports Can Usher in a Zero-Carbon Future, New Report

A new report highlights how ports along North America’s west coast can end their reliance on fossil fuels by adopting zero-carbon fuels.

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Washington, D.C. – Today, Ocean Conservancy releases a new report that makes the case for how major ports along the west coast of North America can lead the shipping industry’s transition away from fossil fuels to zero-carbon fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia.

Zero-Carbon for Shipping: sailing carbon-free along North America’s West Coast presents five case studies from along the west coast of North America that demonstrate how ports can create a zero-carbon shipping corridor that will leverage their combined influence to reshape the industry. The five ports featured in the new report – Los Angeles, Port of Oakland, Port of Tacoma, Port of Vancouver and Unalaska – accounted for over 300 billion U.S. dollars of trade in 2018. These ports include some of the largest in North America, and each can play a unique role in facilitating the transition from fossil fuels in the shipping industry.

“As the United States eyes a historic multibillion dollar contribution to our maritime infrastructure, it’s vital that we invest in the fuels and facilities necessary to face the climate crisis and reduce greenhouse gas and air pollution from ports and ships,” said co-author Daniel Hubbell, manager of Ocean Conservancy’s shipping emissions campaign.

The shipping industry is responsible for almost one billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, equivalent to the emissions of Germany or Japan. To keep trade flowing while also limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius we need to end the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels now. Zero-carbon fuels provide us with the perfect alternative. Further, reducing emissions from the shipping industry will help reach both national and international climate goals, such as the commitments made by both the U.S. and United Kingdom, host of this year’s COP26, for full decarbonization of the industry by 2050.

“There is a real opportunity for North America to lead by example, and take back the lead in the fight against climate change,” said co-author Victor Martinez, Senior Consultant at Ricardo Energy & Environment, “Aided by the fantastic renewable resources at its disposal and catalyzed by some of the largest, and most extensive and established trading relationships in the world, North America can become the birthplace of a widespread shipping decarbonization movement.”

Ports adopting zero-carbon fuels will happen progressively but with huge benefits. The report estimates that if only 5% of international shipping and 15% of domestic shipping fuel demands are met by zero-carbon fuels by 2030 at the five ports featured, then fuel demand will decrease more than fivefold.

While many of the ports featured in the report are large commercial hubs, it also highlighted opportunities at the small and largely remote port of Unalaska. Although solar resource is low, the port experiences astonishing wind speeds that can be harnessed to produce zero-carbon fuels to power fishing operations in the Bering Sea, shipping and even heating for local homes that currently rely on expensive diesel.

Transitioning to zero-carbon fuels provides opportunities for more than just the shipping industry by deploying renewable energy sources and building out zero-carbon fuel infrastructure that local communities can benefit from. Zero-carbon fuels can also be used to eliminate emissions from other industries such as the steel and agriculture industries, provide alternative and less volatile source of income for communities that currently rely on fossil fuels, and create new jobs in zero-carbon fuel production and renewable energy development.

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Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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