Pacific Environment Calls on Biden Administration for a Zero Emission Ship Standard, Protection for Port Communities

Date: March 4, 2022

On March 1, President Biden mentioned port modernization and environmental justice in his State of the Union address, saying “We’ll create good jobs for millions of Americans, modernizing roads, airports, ports, and waterways all across America. And we’ll do it all to withstand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and promote environmental justice.” He also referred to the 2020s as “An Infrastructure Decade.”

At The Economist’s 9th annual World Oceans Summit this week, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry gave a keynote interview in which he explained that carbon dioxide emissions for shipping were “equivalent to the 8th largest country in the world in terms of pollution.”  He highlighted the threats to ocean wildlife from fossil fuel pollution, sharing, “the level of carbon dioxide emissions acidifying the oceans… diminishes the ability of crustaceans to make their shells… We run the risk of tipping points with regard to coral reefs.” To address these problems, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate called on American corporations to take rapid responsibility for the health of our oceans: “What is needed above all are corporations to step up and act responsibly,” Kerry said, citing Amazon’s leadership in the First Mover’s Coalition. He also called on countries that didn’t make commitments during COP26 to “step up at Sharm el-Sheikh. We have to raise global ambition. If we don’t reduce emissions significantly, we will not reverse the chemistry deterioration of the ocean itself.”

Earlier on in the week, California-based Boundary Layer Technologies, a marine technology startup, revealed its operational plans and engineering design for its zero-emissions hydrofoiling containership, known as ARGO. ARGO offers the flexibility of docking virtually anywhere, allowing it to bypass heavily congested and polluted ports. The company plans to operate these vessels to establish a zero-emission shipping service that can replace air freight along major intra-Asia trade lanes. Companies like Amazon would be able to begin shipping freight emission-free as early as Q3 2024.

Statement from Dawny’all Heydari, Campaign Lead of the Ship It Zero Campaign at Pacific Environment:

“The Biden administration is sending a strong signal that zero-emissions and environmental justice will shape the future of international ocean cargo shipping. We welcome President Biden and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry’s interest in advancing a horizon of hope for our dying oceans and port neighbors, and we call on the Biden administration to follow up with action. We stand with environmental justice partners in calling on President Biden to set a national zero emission ship standard and protect port communities now.”