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COP21: the road to Paris passes through the seaports

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Isabelle Ryckbost

Isabelle Ryckbost

Tackling global climate change is a concern of all European ports. European ports overall consider that the 2015 Paris Climate Conference is a historic milestone for enhancing global collective action and moving towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient society. That is why the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) decided to join the “Think Climate” coalition that has been set up under the umbrella of PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure.

Think Climate brings together major international associations with interests in waterborne transport infrastructure, with the objective to help the sector respond to climate change. By further understanding, providing targeted technical support and building capacity, the coalition has a double aim: first of all, to promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, by shifting to low carbon maritime and inland waterway transport infrastructure, secondly, address ways to adapt maritime and waterborne infrastructure and operations to the potential impacts of climate change such as sea level rise and extreme weather conditions. On 6 December, PIANC’s Think Climate coalition formally launched its 2015-2020 “Navigating a Changing Climate”

ESPO PIANC 07DEC2015Action Plan.
We are very pleased we can actively support the Think Climate initiative and step up efforts to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The engagement of European ports towards addressing climate change is not new. Since years already, there is, among ESPO members, a strong coalition of the willing to pro-actively work on energy reduction and climate change. European ports are key nodes in the global transport and supply chain and play an important role in the supply of energy. Around 40% of the commodities of European ports are sources of energy. With international trade volumes expected to further increase, we should develop ways to do more with less emissions. Moreover, we should reflect on how to play an active role in the transition to alternative and renewable energy”, said ESPO Secretary General Isabelle Ryckbost.

The engagement of European port in Climate Change is not new
Even if port infrastructure and operations typically account for only a small proportion of the greenhouse gas emissions to bring goods from origin to destination, European ports are committed to give the good example in minimising the emissions associated with their infrastructure and activities and to strive towards carbon neutrality. The ESPO Green Guide of 2012 has a section dedicated to energy consumption and climate change that calls for concrete action and highlights the best practice examples of European ports.

Port authorities can further bear an influence in reducing the carbon footprint of port areas and the logistic chain. Engaging with their tenants and operators, port authorities increasingly develop and implement monitoring tools, such as carbon footprint and reporting for the port area and beyond. More and more ports also implement environmentally differentiated port charges to encourage and reward greener behaviour. More than 25 European ports nowadays provide incentives to greener vessels on the basis of the Environmental Ship Index (ESI) tool. ESI has been developed by the World Ports Climate Initiative (WPCI) under the umbrella of the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) and recently celebrated its 5th year anniversary. ESPO fully supports since the beginning all the tools of WPCI and encourages its member ports to get involved.

Further to the existing port initiatives, European Ports call for

1. Further steps towards increasing efficiency: do more with less emissions
In order to match the needed reduction of the emissions with the expected growth in freight traffic volumes, maritime transport has to become more efficient and the existing capacity has to be used in a more optimal way. To address this challenge,  the internal market for maritime transport should be materialised. Shorter turnaround times will positively affect emissions.

The European transport and port sector should seriously look into the untapped potential of further digitalisation. According to the World Economic forum, only about 40% of load capacity is effectively being used today. A further digitalisation must lead to a better utilisation of the existing capacity and infrastructure in ports, to more efficient planning regimes in the whole logistic chain and to a higher overall efficiency of the European Transport System. European ports can play a pivotal role in this process.

 2. Ports to play an active role in changing the energy landscape
Ports play an important role in the supply, import, export and even sometimes the production of both conventional and alternative energy. As such, ports can actively manage and promote the transition to alternative and renewable energies.

The Clean Fuel Strategy adopted in 2013 obliges European core ports to provide for LNG refuelling points and to foresee shore side electricity where possible. ESPO encourages ports to meet these obligations as soon as possible.

In addition, ports are an ideal place for exploiting the potential of circular economy and find ways for eliminating waste or using by-products in an efficient way, and thus reducing carbon emissions. The port authority can be the perfect match maker in bringing together the different stakeholders in the port and can help paving the way for a circular economy in the port.

3. Paris to give a clear mandate to IMO to strengthen its work on reducing shipping emissions
Even if international shipping produces about 2.2% of world’s total CO2 emissions, whereas it transports about 90% of world trade, shipping should clearly contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions reductions like any other sector.

Shipping is a global industry. The Paris conference must therefore be seen as a milestone to further enhance the work at IMO level towards this direction. ESPO acknowledges that the recently adopted tools such as the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), are steps in the right direction and need to be given a fair chance. It is clear however that more needs to be done at the international level on monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions, on setting concrete reduction targets at global level and on developing further instruments to achieve those.

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