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United States: safeguarding coastal communities

Global shipping has the largest impact on those living closest to ports, especially indigenous people and poor coastal communities. With approximately 70 per cent of global shipping emissions occurring within 250 miles of shore, people in these communities struggle with disproportionately high rates of cancer, respiratory disease and premature death.
The Holland America OosterdamThe Holland America Oosterdam leaving the Port of Seattle, Washington State, USA © Fred FellemanFriends of the Earth US has spent the past ten years fighting to improve the lives of affected communities by working at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN body tasked with regulating the shipping industry. Their participation has been crucial in limiting harmful air pollution from ships.

 

They initiated a legal challenge in 2000, asking the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce air pollution from ships. The fight moved centre stage in 2009 when the EPA finally developed a proposal to rein in ship pollution and submitted an application to the IMO, in conjunction with Canada, effectively seeking a ban on the highly-polluting bunker fuel used in large ships along the North American coastline.

 

Friends of the Earth US used their status at the IMO to be a voice for people like Jesse N. Marquez of the Coalition for a Safe Environment, who works at the grassroots level in southern California. The coalition called attention to the harmful impact that shipping emissions have on the indigenous people, who inhabited these areas long before they were ports, saying “[we] did not move into ports, we have always existed there.”

 

On 26 March 2010, the IMO finally approved the new rules, which will significantly reduce deadly shipping emissions in the United States and Canada. The rules will take effect in 2012 and by 2015, ships traveling within 200 miles of US shores will be required to cut their air pollution by 80 percent or more (although Arctic waters are not currently included). The decision effectively bans the dirtiest bunker fuels and will prevent millions of illnesses and 14,000 premature deaths in the US by 2020.

 

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