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Oct. 26, 2021

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Port of Vancouver study to underpin overall climate action plan

Inventory of 2019 greenhouse gas emissions to supply data for strategy

By , Columbian business reporter
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A vessel named the Agios Nikolas receives a load of red wheat as it stops at United Grain Corporation on the Port of Vancouver campus on its way to Vietnam. The Port is developing a Climate Action Plan aimed at reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
A vessel named the Agios Nikolas receives a load of red wheat as it stops at United Grain Corporation on the Port of Vancouver campus on its way to Vietnam. The Port is developing a Climate Action Plan aimed at reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

The Port of Vancouver is conducting an inventory of its 2019 greenhouse gas emissions, which will be used as the basis to develop a Climate Action Plan in the next few months. It’s the first full-scale inventory the port has undertaken in more than a decade, and the resulting plan is intended to formalize and expand the port’s current lineup of climate and sustainability initiatives.

The city of Vancouver recently conducted an inventory of its 2019 emissions as part of its own climate action process, which found that the Port produces about 1 percent of the city’s total emissions.

That percentage includes most of the port’s emissions including all marine and rail traffic, although some vehicle traffic was counted separately as part of an estimate of Vancouver’s communitywide transportation emissions, according to Cascadia Consulting Group, which conducted the city’s inventory.

The port has referenced that number for context regarding its own climate efforts, but communications director Therese Lang said the port’s Climate Action Plan will ultimately rely on data from the port’s own currently underway inventory, which will offer a more detailed breakdown of the sources and types of emissions.

The development of a climate plan was included in a strategic plan that the port commissioners adopted in September 2018. The port put out a request for proposals in November for technical consultants to help develop the plan, and hired a team consisting of Ramboll, WSP USA and Fehr & Peers.

Scope of emissions

The initial evaluation will look at what the port refers to as Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, according to Lang. The first category refers to emissions from port-controlled activity such as its vehicle fleet. The second includes indirect emissions such as those stemming from production of the port’s electricity and natural gas.

There’s also a Scope 3, which refers to emissions outside of the port’s direct control such as emissions from trucks, trains and ships that visit the port and emissions from tenant businesses.

“We can influence the Scope 3 emissions, but we don’t have direct control of those emissions,” Lang said.

The plan will likely include goals or targets for numeric reductions of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, according to port environmental program manager Mary Mattix, and could also outline actions aimed at indirectly reducing Scope 3 emissions such as reducing wait times for trucks at the main gate.

The consultant team will help develop a list of possible actions to further reduce emissions, Mattix said, which will help guide the port and hopefully help secure grant funding. A lot of the bigger actions might be focused on electrification, she said, such as a more aggressive timetable to convert the vehicle fleet.

Electrification of rail infrastructure and the installation of shore power sources (so that berthed ships can get electricity without leaving their engines running) have both become big topics of conversation as ports worldwide look for new emissions-cutting strategies, she said.

The inventory process is still ongoing, but in the meantime the port has kicked off the public outreach phase of the plan, which includes a dedicated webpage and an online feedback form where residents can submit ideas and suggestions.

The form is available on the webpage at portvanusa.com/environmental-services/climate-action-plan and will run through April 9.

The results of both the emissions inventory and the public input will be used to craft a draft Climate Action Plan which will likely be presented to the commission at a workshop in June, Lang said, at which point the commissioners will give guidance to staff about how to move forward with the recommendations.

Prior efforts

The Climate Action Plan won’t be the port’s first environmental effort, although Mattix and Lang described it as a way to formalize some of the port’s other efforts under a broader structure.

“I think it just creates a renewed sense of commitment and focus toward these items,” Mattix said.

Some of the port’s prior efforts have been grouped under a sustainability campaign called “We Can!” which dates back to 2008. The port produced its first annual sustainability report the following year.

Prior sustainability efforts have included a goal of supporting renewable energy development – best seen through the port’s recent efforts to become a major import destination for wind energy components – and purchasing renewable energy credits to offset electricity usage, Mattix said.

Other actions include the addition of showers and bike storage facilities as part of a commute trip reduction program, encouraging partial remote work even before the pandemic and the installation of an electric vehicle charging station in the administration lot, she said.

The team added a clean air goal to the 2019 report following the adoption of the strategic plan that called for a climate action plan, Mattix said.

Columbian business reporter