A US push to establish “green shipping corridors” is key to reducing the shipping industry’s carbon emissions, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said Monday during a tour of the port of Yokohama near Tokyo.
Buttigieg was in Japan over the weekend to attend a meeting of transport ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies, who reaffirmed their commitment to reducing emissions from the transport industry and free and open shipping in the Asia-Pacific region.
The US is trying to develop and strengthen partnerships with “like-minded countries” to improve maritime security and keep shipping and aviation corridors open, he told the Associated Press in an interview.
Emissions from maritime transport account for about 3% of total global emissions from human activities. About 40% of Yokohama’s emissions come from the port. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, about 90% of all traded goods are transported by sea, and the volume of maritime trade is expected to triple by 2050. Studies suggest that the industry’s share of greenhouse gas emissions could reach 15%. This has made efforts to reduce this pollution even more urgent.
The International Maritime Organization, which regulates merchant shipping, wants to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century and could target deeper cuts this year.
The Port of Los Angeles in March signed an agreement with the port authorities of Yokohama and Tokyo to establish so-called green shipping corridors, aimed at promoting emissions reductions through the deployment of net-zero emissions ships and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas flow from ports and shipping .
The country has also forged similar partnerships with Singapore and Shanghai, and the US has begun discussing the establishment of such corridors in Southeast Asia. The initiative is also being discussed in the Quad, which includes Japan, the US, India and Australia.
Yokohama is the closest major port to North America across the Pacific and is a major regional hub.
Japan is working to reduce fossil fuel consumption and promote hydrogen and ammonia as alternative fuels. Yokohama plans to build a terminal for ships to import hydrogen, officials said. Other systems in Yokohama make it possible to supply electricity to a ship that is stationary in port electronically, instead of burning highly polluting ship fuel oil.
Similar initiatives are being promoted in US ports, Buttigieg said, adding that Japan’s leadership in developing hydrogen as a fuel will be “a big part of the future.”
The Biden administration is pushing to accelerate the transition to renewable and less polluting energy sources. While attending G7 meetings in April in Sapporo, northern Japan, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm toured the world’s first and only liquid hydrogen tanker, a ship that puts it all on display.
Japanese effort to convert highly polluting coal into emission-free hydrogen power.
Japan is aiming for carbon neutrality in 2050, with the aim of becoming a “hydrogen society”. But the hydrogen industry is still in its infancy and still largely relies on hydrogen made from fossil fuels.
“We know it will take longer for these to become widespread, but you have to start somewhere,” he said.
In a joint statement, Buttigieg and other G7 ministers reiterated their countries’ determination to support free and open shipping and expressed their firm opposition to any attempts to alter the “peacefully established status of areas by force” – a reference to Concerns over China’s growing military presence and its longstanding claim to the separately governed island of Taiwan.
Disruptions to production and trade in China during the pandemic, as well as the risk of conflict, have prompted measures to diversify supply chains and reduce reliance on Chinese production of strategically important goods and raw materials.
“We recognize that there will be many geopolitical challenges in this region that will impact both trade and security. This is why we place so much emphasis on de-risking and diversifying economic relations with China,” Buttigieg said.
Yokohama is in the midst of a “Blue Carbon Infrastructure” project that envisages the promotion of coastal structures such as dikes that can serve as habitat for marine life while also absorbing the planet-warming gases emitted by the port.
During the port tour, Buttigieg was briefed on efforts to increase efficiency through the accelerated deployment of remote-controlled cranes and autonomously driving trailers, which can reduce wait times for truck drivers and reduce emissions.