New Report Provides Ports Pathways to Decarbonization, Environmental Justice

EDF & Arup offer a roadmap to help ports reach net zero by 2050

March 13, 2024
Debora Schneider, (212) 616-1377,
Chloe Ginnegar, (213) 999-8853,

A new report from Environmental Defense Fund and Arup shows how adopting a zero-emission strategy for supply chains and energy systems both on and off port terminals is beneficial to the climate, surrounding communities' health, and operators’ bottom lines. It also acts as a roadmap for those interested in applying for federal funding, including the $3 billion available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Ports Program, announced last week.

The report, “Practical Pathways for Port Decarbonization and Environmental Justice” offers a series of best practices for net zero-aligned activity and creates measurements for accountability. Specifically, it provides a dashboard with key steps ports can take to help them reach net zero by 2050. Many of these same steps are fundable under the Clean Ports Program, which seeks to reduce air pollution near domestic ports impacting nearby communities. 

Addressing environmental justice concerns

Ports and their contributions to climate change and air pollution have long had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-wealth communities. BIL and IRA funding under the federal government’s Justice40 Initiative provides ports with opportunities to improve their operations while directly benefiting nearby communities.

“Diesel trucks, ships, cargo handling equipment and rail operating in and around ports are significant contributors to emissions and air pollution to neighboring communities,” said Dr. Margot Brown, Senior Vice President Justice & Equity at Environmental Defense Fund. “Many of these neighborhoods are low wealth and communities of color, and ports have the responsibility to work with the cargo owners and fleets to support a timely and equitable move toward zero emissions and cleaner air. This new report offers tangible steps they can take to reduce Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions and improve health outcomes, in a way that’s inclusive and meaningful to nearby communities.”

An opportunity to upgrade

Federal investments, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offer ports an unprecedented opportunity to access funding to upgrade their infrastructure and accelerate their transition to zero emissions, while addressing environmental justice concerns.

The report links actions to specific new funding opportunities under recent legislation that ports can leverage and details multiple programs, outlining which opportunities align with both planning and construction projects.

Ports vary dramatically in their commitment to climate action, and this report identifies high-potential opportunities, so they can either start their journey or increase their ambitions.

"Ports will play a pivotal role in rapidly decarbonizing our economy in a way that does not leave anyone behind. We have provided a clear path forward for ports to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that maximizes economic opportunities and benefits to local communities,” said Dr. Robert Kay, Arup’s Americas Climate and Sustainability Services Leader. "Ports have an incredible opportunity from new federal funding programs to advance decarbonization and environmental justice. This report is a great tool meant to help ports take advantage of this chance to improve climate and supply chain resilience across the United States.”

The report will help ports accelerate their GHG emissions reductions, decrease social and environmental impacts to local communities, expand investment and business opportunities, improve climate and supply chain resilience and increase competitiveness for government funding.

“As companies transporting goods raise their climate ambitions to decarbonize their supply chains, port facilities are a pivotal lever that severely hinders, or powerfully advances their actions. With this immediate opportunity to access federal funding, we strongly encourage all port landlords, port authorities and port terminal operators to use the practical steps laid out in this report, to advance their modernization plans, for the benefit of their customers, local communities and global climate goals” said Angie Farrag Thibault, Associate Vice-President Global Transportation at Environmental Defense Fund.

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Environmental Defense Fund
One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund ( creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and activists and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund.

Dedicated to sustainable development, Arup is a collective of designers, consultants and experts working globally. Founded to be humane and excellent, we collaborate with our clients and partners using imagination, technology, and rigour to shape a better world.