“Tougher than IMO” bill on ship emissions introduced in House

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Image: Architect of the Capitol

There have long been warnings that failure by IMO to act more aggressively on shipping decarbonization would lead more countries and regions to introduce their own measures. Already, the EU is moving to include shipping in its Emissions Trading System. Now, the discontent with IMO actions has reached the U.S. Congress in the form of a new Clean Shipping Act.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), who represents the Port of Long Beach, today introduced the Clean Shipping Act, legislation aimed at zeroing out pollution from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the U.S. The bill is cosponsored by Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (CA-44), who represents the Port of Los Angeles, which with the neighboring Long Beach port comprise the busiest container port complex in the Western Hemisphere.

“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,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “This legislation continues this effort.”

If passed, the Clean Shipping Act would amend the Clean Air Act to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to, among other things:

  • Set carbon intensity standards for fuels used by ships. The bill sets progressively tighter carbon intensity standards for fuels used by ships consistent with a 1.5° Celsius decarbonization pathway. These standards would require lifecycle carbon dioxide-equivalent reductions of 20 percent from January 1, 2027, 45 percent from January 1, 2030, 80 percent from January 1, 2035, and 100 percent from January 1, 2040, relative to the 2024 emissions baseline. The EPA will retain regulatory discretion to ensure the continued success of the ocean freight system through this transition, while achieving maximum carbon reductions.
  • Set requirements to eliminate in-port ship emissions by 2030. By January 1, 2030, all ships at-berth or at-anchor in U.S. ports would emit zero GHG emissions and zero air pollutant emissions.

“The Clean Shipping Act of 2022 is bold legislation that will make the United States a global climate leader in addressing pollution from the shipping industry and protect the health of port communities in Los Angeles and around the country,” Congresswoman Barragán said. “This is a big step forward for climate-smart ports and a clean energy future for every community. Proud to support this legislation as an original co-sponsor. Thank you to Congressman Lowenthal for your leadership and partnership to clean up the maritime industry and advance the greening of our ports.”

A backgrounder from Congressman Lowenthal’s office notes that IMO’s goal of cutting shipping emissions by at least 50 percent below 2008 levels by 2050 is not aligned with achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5-degrees Celsius in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“We no longer have the luxury of waiting to act,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “We must face the fact that we are at a tipping point in the climate crisis; we must move beyond fossil fuels, and that includes air, land and sea transportation sources. No emissions sources can go overlooked. This legislation will set clear standards and drive the investment and innovation we need to transition to a zero-carbon future. It will clean up our ports once and for all, with a straightforward nationwide policy. This bill is the right policy for the future of our planet, for the health of our communities, and ultimately for the resiliency of goods movement.”

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