Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach must mitigate high carbon emissions amid record cargo volume, says activist group

The San Pedro Bay Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced that they continued their record high volume streak of cargo moved in July. Despite inflation and higher-than-usual inventory, the ports expect cargo volume to remain high through the second half of the year.

But, high volumes of ocean cargo shipping equate to high emissions from dirty fossil fuels that pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink. If ocean shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the climate crisis and the impacts of global warming, like the record-breaking heat waves hitting countries around the world. 

Port-adjacent communities in Wilmington and San Pedro face eight-year lower life expectancies than the Los Angeles County average, a grave injustice of the U.S. economy’s transition from manufacturing to import.

Only the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan emit more carbon dioxide than the world’s shipping fleet – and projections show that industry emissions are nowhere near the reduction trajectory needed to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

In order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis, all industries need to reduce and eliminate emissions commensurate with the urgency of the climate emergency – which is why we are asking the shipping industry to reach zero emissions by 2030. 

The Los Angeles area receives 40% of all containerized cargo imports to the U.S. coming through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, making the surrounding communities — primarily working-class communities of color — particularly vulnerable to cancer-causing pollutants and the impacts of climate change. Port-adjacent communities experience up to eight years lower life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average, and the highest risk of cancer regionally.  

Allyson Browne, Climate Campaign Manager for Ports, Pacific Environment, said: “Heat waves, flooding, and natural disasters intensified by climate change underline that our way of life—and dependence on fossil fuels—is unsustainable. 

“Celebrating record high volumes of goods through our largest ports without commensurate public communications on pollution reduction is a slap in the face to the communities that are breathing in polluted air and struggling with asthma. 

“We call on Governor Newsom, Long Beach and Los Angeles Port Commissioners, and respective city councils to set faster zero-emission targets for ships and do more to protect port communities from relentless port pollution.”

Photo credit: iStock/ MattGush

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