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Policymakers Demand an End to Ocean Shipping Pollution

U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Edie Chang, Deputy Executive Officer of Planning, Freight & Toxics Division at the California Air Resources Board spoke at a Community Town Hall moderated by Joe Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air. The event was hosted by Pacific Environment and Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma yesterday evening.

Rep. Lowenthal represents the Port of Long Beach – one of the nation’s busiest cargo ports, and an area that is facing extreme pollution from fossil fuel ships. At the Town Hall, community members shared heartbreaking stories about how ship pollution has affected their family and communities in profound and irreversible ways.

The policymakers demanded an end to ocean shipping pollution in ports and at sea. Congressman Lowenthal said, “Since my earliest days of public service on the Long Beach City Council three decades ago, I have worked to clean up the maritime industry. This session of Congress, I introduced a bill to clean up the massive emissions generated from the maritime shipping industry. We must all work together towards zeroing out pollution from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the U.S. for our children, our community, and our environment.”

CARB Deputy Executive Officer Edie Chang said “We are vigorously attacking every source of harmful pollution from the transportation of freight that impacts the health of port-adjacent communities. This includes requiring ships in California waters to use clean-burning fuel, and plugging those ships into the grid — and turning off their engines — while they’re loading and unloading. We recently updated our standards for harbor craft from ferries to tugboats so they use the very cleanest engines. We are proposing regulations to require that trucks transporting containers in and out of ports shift rapidly to zero-emissions. And we are continuing to push for tougher federal new engine standards for locomotives to complement our proposed regulations to address sources of pollution like interstate locomotives that California must have in order clean the air especially near port-adjacent communities that are already burdened by high levels of air pollution.”

In July, Rep. Lowenthal introduced the Clean Shipping Act, aimed at zeroing out pollution from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the U.S. This legislation will protect the health of port communities, address environmental injustice and provide solutions to the climate crisis. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats secured billions of dollars that would help fund the zero-emission transition at the ports.

“We are on the cusp of market changes for zero-emission shipping. But we face a climate crisis, and it’s incumbent on federal, state, and local governments to put into place policies and investments to help accelerate the process. For far too long, port communities have suffered the burden of maritime pollution, and it’s time to right the ship. We need Congress to act and pass the Clean Shipping Act of 2022 to end dirty fossil-fueled shipping in our oceans and ports,” said Antonio Santos, Federal Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment.

In June, the City of Long Beach joined the City of Los Angeles in calling on the San Pedro Port Complex’s top maritime importers to commit to making all calls on 100% zero-emission ships by 2030.

“We are seeing strong momentum at various levels of government for zero-emission ocean shipping this decade, including recent resolutions from the City of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the Inflation Reduction Act’s $3 billion for reducing air pollution at ports,” said Dawny’all Heydari, Lead for the Ship It Zero campaign, Pacific Environment. “Emissions from ocean cargo ships pose serious risks to public health, including death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as childhood asthma. This is most especially detrimental to portside working-class Black and Brown communities, including West Long Beach, Wilmington, and San Pedro. We applaud the leadership of Rep. Lowenthal, the California Air Resources Board, and city councils for taking action at such a critical time for climate change, and we will continue to demand an end to ship pollution this decade.”

The Port of Long Beach also joined the Ports of Los Angeles and Shanghai and C40 Cities’ Green Ports Forum to create the world’s first transpacific green shipping corridor between ports in the United States and China.

“We’re not going to solve our climate crisis or our air pollution problems without addressing emissions from ships,” said Joe Lyou, President and CEO of Coalition for Clean Air and moderator of the event. “This town hall gives us an opportunity to get going in the right direction. We will talk about the problems, the solutions, and the concrete next steps we can all take to reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions from ships.”


If ocean shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of climate pollution globally. At almost 1 billion tons of climate pollution per year, the shipping industry emits roughly the same as all the coal plants in the U.S. combined. The sector could account for 17-18% of all global emissions by 2050 if corrective policies are not put in place. The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency that regulates shipping, has set a goal of reducing shipping emissions by at least 50% below 2008 levels by 2050; however, the IMO’s mandate is not aligned with achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5-degrees C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Ships currently rely on the dirtiest fossil fuel in the planet–heavy fuel oil–which contains life-shortening air pollutants including nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, and particulate matter. In 2021, ship congestion added disease-causing diesel particulate matter emissions equivalent to emissions from 100,000 big rig trucks per day. The South Coast Air basin is already under extreme nonattainment with the Federal Clean Air Act. This pollution is exacerbating an ongoing public health crisis for Southern California’s port-adjacent communities of West Long Beach, Wilmington, and San Pedro, who face up to 8 years shorter life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average and an increased risk of asthma, lung disease and cancer.
Source: Pacific Environment

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