Why focus on ports?
The maritime sector plays a major role in the global economy, transporting a high volume of freight around the world. As such, maritime, and ports in particular, are a visible part of transport decarbonization discussions. However, the sector is responsible for only 2.9 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions1 and moves freight with some of the lowest carbon emissions per tonne.kilometre (t.km)2 of any transport sector.
Maritime emissions are expected to increase as global trade grows and other sectors decarbonise. Therefore, the sector will need to decarbonise. To drive this change, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set a carbon intensity reduction target (emission per t.km of freight) of 40 percent, based on a 2008 baseline, by 2030.
Although freight handling in ports only accounts for a small proportion of the emissions from the freight movement chain, port’s shore-based assets are attracting attention in light of the IMO target. This, combined with local policies and legislation, means there is added stakeholder pressure on ports to reduce their emissions from operation and construction.
Ports have already been decarbonising their operations. Containerisation and today’s state-of-the-art automated systems have minimised the number of times freight is moved within the port, resulting in improved margins and thereby supporting emissions reduction. The same motive has also driven more energy-efficient handling equipment, and, more recently, the electrification of equipment. These trends are expected to continue and combine with other trends—including the roll-out of renewable energy and broader state-level electricity grid decarbonisation—to deliver zero-carbon port operations.
For this reason, the proportion of emissions generated from port construction is an increasingly larger component of the whole-life-carbon impact of a port. With construction already estimated to be up to 40 percent of the whole-life-carbon footprint of some ports, construction emissions are clearly material to the sector. Heightened attention to port construction emissions derives from an increased focus on construction emissions more generally, and in particular during project consenting, which has become more challenging on climate grounds in some jurisdictions. Therefore, it is essential to consider construction decarbonisation during port design and construction.
Following a Clear Path
Fortunately, there is a global standard for reducing emissions during the design and construction of infrastructure–PAS 2080.
This standard provides a breakdown of responsibilities and activities that all members of the value chain need to assume so they can jointly deliver the decarbonisation of infrastructure. It is relatively straightforward to apply the PAS 2080 framework to the port context. The key elements of this process are as follows:
- Leadership to drive the decarbonisation of the project
- Decarbonisation targets agreed by stakeholders
- Identification and implementation of carbon reduction interventions across the construction value chain
- Monitoring and reporting of emissions against the decarbonisation targets
- Governance to implement the process
One of the most important concepts employed by PAS 2080 is the carbon-reduction hierarchy. This is a useful framework within which to consider how to reduce emissions from ports (see below).