Analysis & Opinions - ArcticToday

Why Arctic Nations Should Invest in a Network of Green Ports

  • Kevin Bain
| July 28, 2020

Climate change is opening Arctic sea lanes. With timely investment in green infrastructure, that could mean fewer — not more — emissions.


This piece is one of a series of op-eds written by the student-scholars of the Arctic Innovators Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Arctic Initiative.

Due to melting sea ice, Arctic waters are opening for more business, including in the cargo shipping, tourism, and fishing sectors. But that's a double-edged sword: Busier maritime activity could bolster economies but threaten ecosystems by amplifying emissions. To sustainably capitalize on their maritime potential, Arctic states should invest in electrified, green ports that achieve carbon neutrality. Doing so would enable countries to capture the greater marine access of the melting Arctic while mitigating future emissions and climate impact.

To start, the transition towards greener ports is not a path that the Arctic must forge alone; in fact, there already exists plenty of work on the matter. In 2017, the World Ports Sustainability Program formed through partnerships between global port associations — including throughout the Americas and Europe — with the founding principle to enhance the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. WSPS builds upon the Paris Agreement, committed to keeping global temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius. As Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, points out, "Ports are the connecting nodes of global trade and world economy. There is no way we can move this world towards sustainability without ports."

In the grand scheme, the emissions from ships far exceed ports; however, electrified ports would catalyze the greening of global shipping by supporting electric ships, a technology already benefiting from innovation....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Bain, Kevin.“Why Arctic Nations Should Invest in a Network of Green Ports.” ArcticToday, July 28, 2020.

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