The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles plan to aim for zero-emission operations by 2035, and together they will push other ports and cities on the West Coast toward a similar goal, the mayors of the two cities said last week.


In a joint declaration outlining their intentions, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made it clear that they were making a statement in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate and environmental protection.

As officials from the Port of Long Beach and the City and Port of Los Angeles look on, Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach, left, and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles display the joint declaration they signed “that sets ambitious goals for the ports to make the transition to zero emissions in the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP).” In a statement, Garcia said, “CAAP will include new investments in clean technology, expanding at-berth emission reductions, and launching a zero emissions drayage truck pilot program in the next few years.” (Port of Los Angeles photograph)


And they also wanted to make it clear that on environmental issues, the two – together, by far the country’s busiest port complex – would not be competitors but collaborators, working together to create a market to drive clean technology for cargo moving equipment, trucks and rail vehicles.


“Most of you can remember, like I do, what the air looked like just 10, 20 years ago,” Garcia said at a news conference along the waterfront in San Pedro. “This is not just a step forward for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. It’s a direct statement that we will not go backward in this country, in this region, that we will push back every step of the way to ensure that we meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and that Long Beach and Los Angeles continue to lead when it comes to clean air and environmental protection.”


“Washington may not care about clean air or think that environmental justice for people who live near our ports isn’t anything to be concerned about,” Garcetti said. “You can be damned sure that we do. These are our communities. We’re not letting anyone move us backward. We’re going to fight for our air, we’re going to fight for our families, and we’re going to fight for our jobs.


“There are 10 times the number of jobs in clean energy in this state than there are coal jobs in this entire country. China gets it – these are the jobs of the future. Europe gets it – these are the jobs of the future. And the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles get it – there are jobs connected to getting this right.”


While emissions have been dramatically reduced since the Clean Air Action Plan’s adoption in 2006, the ports remain the single largest source of air pollution in Southern California, said Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who represents the San Pedro region. And it doesn’t take much to remember the foul, polluted air in Southern California when he was growing up, he said.


“Many of us remember when there was a heavy, brown haze hanging over the ports and over our cities. It was easy to forget that we actually had mountains to the north of us,” Buscaino said.


At the news conference, the mayors committed to complete the 2017 update of the Clean Air Action Plan for the ports by November. It is the latest step toward meeting the environmental goals laid out in the plan, which has been implemented during the past 10 years. Specific targets identified by the mayors include 100% of the cargo handling equipment in the ports to emit zero pollutants by 2030 and for all trucks to emit zero pollutants by 2035.


Currently, the ports are working on a draft of the latest update of the plan. In public comments to date, shippers and cargo handlers have questioned whether pursuing a zero-emissions goal would miss the opportunity to implement ultra low-emissions technologies much earlier than 2035.


Garcia and Garcetti also announced that they would be taking their ideas on the road to other port operators, with the intention of creating a demand for zero-emissions equipment for cargo handling and transportation. The Green Ports Collaborative’s goal is to get ports and cities to commit to purchasing zero-emission vehicles and to cut emissions from vessels while at dock and in the port complex.


The collaborative is a new initiative of the Climate Mayors group, an organization of U.S. mayors who have committed to environmental and climate protection policies in their cities and to meet the standards of the Paris climate agreement. Nearly 300 mayors in the U.S., representing more than 60 million residents, have signed on to the Climate Mayors association, with the number more than quadrupling in the days since federal officials announced the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.


The collective purchasing power of the Climate Mayors communities and associations like the Green Ports Collaborative will be the force that ultimately drives the technology needed to further reduce emissions and pollutants, Garcetti said.


“We don’t want people undercutting each other at the price of the residents in their communities. We want to build a marketplace that builds a demand for zero-emission trucks and equipment,” he said. “We know when we approach the Teslas and the GMs, the Fords and the Nissans of the world – when all of our cities come together – they see a marketplace that is worth their investment.”


“This is really brave new territory. We will set these goals. There will be setbacks. They might be scientific setbacks. The technology might not be there. Other times, we will surpass our goals. We will see technologies emerge more quickly than we ever thought possible. But only because we stay unified and have a joint commitment. If we don’t keep pushing, if we don’t have these goals, we will never get there,” Garcetti said.


Garcetti said the technological advancements needed will prove to be the largest obstacles that will have to be overcome to meet those goals. But fear will be an obstacle that must be overcome en route to creating the necessary advances in technology, he told the Business Journal.


“I think it’s technological – and then just psychology, the fear: Does environmental mean fewer jobs for my members, or less business?” Garcetti said after the news conference had ended. “I think we’re showing that by going green, the state has created more jobs. There is a practical reason other nations are signing on to Paris. They know that there are solar installation jobs, there are manufacturing jobs, there are transportation jobs. Los Angeles, Long Beach and California understand that, even if the White House doesn’t.”