MEOPAR HQP attends Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) Freight & Environment: Ports of Entry 2019 Conference

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Did you know that global maritime transportation is a major contributor to air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? In fact, its CO2 emissions are equivalent to that of Germany’s. Its share of global air pollution is 13% of sulfur oxides (SOx) and 15% of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, accounting for ~400,000 premature deaths worldwide. Unless there are additional measures and standards for the marine shipping industry, global shipping-related CO2 emissions could increase by 20 to 120% and account for 17% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

Photo Credit: Imranul Laskar

There is an increased pressure on the global shipping regulator, International Maritime Organization (IMO) to align with the Paris Climate Agreement, as international shipping is not included in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that form the basis of the Paris Agreement. This led the IMO to develop an initial strategy on April 13th, 2018 to reduce shipping-related GHG emissions by 50% compared to 2008 levels by 2050. Its upcoming sulfur-in-shipping-fuel limit of 0.5% from 3.5% (except for Emission Control Areas) regulation is also set to be in effect from January 1st, 2020. These targets, without any current measures on how to attain them, have caused considerable stir in the shipping industry. The sulfur-limit target is considered to be the most significant change in the marine shipping industry in the last two decades.

Photo Credit: Imranul Laskar 

A&WMA recently hosted the first specialty conference on shipping and freight-related emissions at Newark, New Jersey from October 23rd to 25th, 2019. This can be seen as the professional organization A&WMA’s direct response to IMO’s recent regulations. The vibe from the shipping speciality conference supported the feelings of anxiousness and concern within the marine shipping industry and community. There were around 50 speakers at the event. Majority of them were from the shipping industry, environmental regulatory agencies (US and Hong Kong), community groups, port authorities, and a few (~15%) from academia. From the conference, it felt like the global marine shipping industry is in a nascent stage as it transitions towards decarbonization, with the European countries (especially the Scandinavian region) at the forefront. There were also talks on environmental justice (EJ) issues related to seaport communities. The first EJ speaker emphasized the need to give EJ issues more importance and have such issues discussed at the start of the conference and not towards the end, as those communities bear most of the burden from shipping-related pollution. The same can be said for other similarly-themed conferences and events.

Photo Credit: Imranul Laskar

With over 90% of the world’s trade administered by the maritime industry and an expected increase of 100% in freight volume by 2035, it is imperative for the industry to meet its climate change and air pollution mitigation goals equitably. This will be driven majorly by the industry itself, as it pushes for changes and innovation in its operational and technological features, and alternative shipping energy sources. The conference ended with a refreshing ‘windshield tour’ of the facilities at the Port of New York/New Jersey. The port gave the impression of a tiny town. It hosts huge warehouses each filled separately with cement, cars, grain, gravel, and even orange juice.

Imranul Laskar is a MEOPAR HQP and a PhD student in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). His research focuses on global shipping emissions and investigating potential air quality co-benefits and trade-offs for future climate change and air quality policy decision making. He has a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and an MSc in Environmental Engineering from University of Alberta.