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Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy

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Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy

The 2020 Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (NWPCAS) has been nominated for an IAPH Sustainability Award! Show your support for this innovative collaboration between Port of Seattle, Port of Tacoma, Northwest Seaport Alliance, and Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to phase out seaport-related emissions for our local communities and to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Vote for the NWPCAS for best Collaborative Project in the Climate and Energy category. Voting ends Sunday, May 30 at 3:00p Pacific. Winners will be announced on June 24 at a Virtual Awards ceremony at the IAPH World Port Conference

Map of the Northwest Ports' shared airshed
Figure 1. Map of the shared airshed

The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (Strategy) is a collaborative effort between the Port of Seattle, Port of Tacoma, Northwest Seaport Alliance, and Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in British Columbia (Northwest Ports) to reduce air and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping and port operations in the ports' shared airshed. 

First adopted in 2008, the Strategy was the first international strategy of its kind in the Port community. The original Strategy sought to encourage environmental action above competition and created a means for the four Northwest Ports to work collectively and voluntarily to reduce air pollution. In 2020, the Northwest Ports renewed the Strategy with a new vision to phase out emissions from seaport-related activities by 2050, supporting cleaner air for our local communities and fulfilling our shared responsibility to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. 

Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy documents:

Progress to Reduce Air and GHG Emissions

The strategy covers six sectors of port activity: oceangoing vessels, cargo-handling equipment, trucks, harbor vessels, rail, and port administration and tenant facilities. Since the Strategy's inception, the Northwest Ports have worked in collaboration with several agencies to reduce emissions. Partners include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington State Department of Ecology, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Environment Canada, British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Metro Vancouver. 

The Strategy has achieved significant results after over a decade of implementation. The 2013 Strategy set targets to reduce diesel particulate matter (DPM) and GHG emissions per metric ton of cargo by 80 percent and 15 percent, respectively, relative to 2005 levels. The Northwest Ports achieved both targets four years early as of the 2016 Puget Sound Maritime emissions Inventory. The reductions can be attributed to changes in international, national, and provincial regulations, industry action, and port policies and programs to accelerate the turnover of older equipment and use cleaner fuels. 

During this period, total emissions of DPM declined 75 percent, while total emissions of GHGs combined across the four ports increased by almost five percent. This increase can be attributed to growth in the cargo movement outpacing the reduction of GHG emissions. In addition to these targets, several objectives were set within each of the sectors in the 2013 Strategy. Progress toward these objectives continues to be reported on and published in annual Implementation Reports. Air and GHG emissions from each sector are measured every five years in the Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory. 

Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory reports: 2005, 2011, 2016

Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy Implementation reports: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

2020 Strategy Renewal: Northwest Ports to Phase Out Emissions by 2050

In 2018, the Northwest Ports began the process to develop a renewed Strategy that set objectives and actions beyond 2020. Building upon the partnerships and successes of the last decade, the renewal recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to reduce local air pollution in areas where air quality is poor. In the 2020 Strategy, the Northwest Ports commit to an ambitious new vision to phase out seaport related air and GHG emissions and transition to zero-emission operations within each sector by 2050. 

Updated vision: Phase out emissions from seaport-related activities by 2050, supporting cleaner air for our local communities and fulfilling our responsibility to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

In developing the 2020 Strategy, the Northwest Ports sought input from community members, environmental health advocacy organizations, industry representatives, and Tribal, federal, state, and local government agencies in a three-part engagement process. Feedback shared through in-person and virtual workshops, meetings, briefings, and written comments shaped the vision and objectives and helped the Northwest Ports define both the Strategy and implementation actions.

Implementation at Port of Seattle

The Northwest Ports will each develop port-specific implementation plans to implement the Strategy vision and objectives in their own lines of business and will continue to report annually on the progress. 

Cover of the Maritime Climate and Air Action Plan

Charting the Course to Zero: Port of Seattle's Maritime Climate and Air Action Plan (the MCAAP) is Port of Seattle's implementation plan for the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy. Focusing on strategies and actions over the next 10 years, the MCAAP is a comprehensive plan to achieve the Port's Century Agenda GHG reduction targets and chart the course to phase out emissions from seaport-related sources by 2050. The scope of the MCAAP covers GHG emission sources related to administrative operations of the Port's Maritime and Economic Development Divisions, such as energy used in port buildings, fuel used in fleet vehicles and equipment, and emissions associated with employee commuting and solid waste transportation and disposal. It also covers air pollutant and GHG emissions sources from port-related maritime activities, such as cruise sailings, grain terminal operations, commercial fishing, and recreational marinas. 

Note: As a maritime-focused plan, the MCAAP does not include GHG or air pollutant emissions associated with Seattle‐Tacoma International Airport, which creates its own separate plans and inventories to track and address these sources. The MCAAP also does not address emissions from the Northwest Seaport Alliance’s (NWSA) container cargo operations in Seattle. As a collaborative partner in the 2020 Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, actions NWSA will develop its own implementation plan later this spring to address emissions from container cargo terminals, ships, and trucks.

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