Port of Seattle Speeds Up Decarbonization Plans by 10 Years

File image courtesy NWSA

Published Nov 1, 2021 10:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Seattle's commission has voted to speed up its carbon-cutting efforts by ten years and now aims achieve net-zero emissions from its own operations by 2040. The port has also committed to accelerating its goal for tenant and port user emissions to be carbon neutral or better by 2050.

The policy directives were timed to coincide with the Conference of Parties 26 (COP 26) meeting in Scotland. "The urgency for climate action is underscored by the UN Secretary General’s recent statement that the impacts of climate change are a ‘code red for humanity,’" said Port of Seattle Commission President Fred Felleman. "As a public port, these investments are not just the right thing to do, but they also give us a competitive advantage because businesses are increasingly seeking ways to reduce their emissions."

The port also highlighted its participation in new exploratory studies of renewable hydrogen as a maritime fuel source; a new partnership with Seattle City Light (SCL) and the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) to focus on waterfront electrification; and its membership in the Getting to Zero coalition. 

“These improvements happened because our community demanded them. Residents, workers, and business owners called on us to accelerate our efforts to address climate change, and Port staff and leadership took those concerns seriously. As a result, the Port of Seattle’s Maritime Climate and Air Action Plan is better,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins. 

The Port of Seattle is already making progress. A new 2020 inventory revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from port-controlled sources dropped 20 percent last year. While the COVID-19 slowdown had an effect, the expanded use of low carbon fuels and clean electricity drove the majority (60 percent) of the decline in emissions. 

The port says that it is engaged in a new energy planning effort with Seattle City Light (SCL), the NWSA and industry partners. It is on track to wrap up by the end of next year, and it will provide a roadmap for the clean energy infrastructure and energy sources needed to decarbonize Seattle’s maritime industry by 2050. 

The port is also participating in two regional studies to evaluate the potential role of renewable hydrogen - among other potential fuels - as an emerging zero-emission energy source for maritime industrial uses. 

The commission will vote on a more detailed regional plan to cut seaport-related emissions on November 16. This plan calls for cutting maritime emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and phasing out all maritime emissions at the port (including tenants and port users) by 2050.