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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Opening Remarks at UK Clydebank Declaration

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Welcome everybody, and thank you very much for joining our panel today. I'll start my questions if I may with Secretary Buttigieg. If I may ask you Mr. Secretary, how do you see the role of green corridors within the wider maritime decarbonization landscape? 

Secretary Buttigieg:
Oh, well first, thank you Minister Courts, and thank you to everyone who has helped us to get to this moment: the signatories, the leaders, both public and private, who joined this effort. The excellent knowledge, work and research that we just saw a sample of, and my own teams at the Department's Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Maritime Administration, and the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change. 

We all know the challenge before us, which is that Maritime GHG emissions play such a significant role in climate change - and measures taken to date have not yet been enough to stop their growth. This is one of the sectors that is considered hard to abate, which in a less urgent moment might have meant lower priority. But in this defining decade, especially with what we've seen from the IPCC in terms of the narrow window that we're in, hard to abate still means have to abate. 

And we see that the long-term future of international shipping has to be zero emissions. So, we recognize the importance of limiting the most extreme effects of climate change, and protecting the health of those who live around our ports, and we see enormous potential for progress. I think in shipping in particular there's a paradox. On one hand pound for pound, it is typically the least carbon-intensive means of moving goods. And yet there is so much of it consuming so much fuel, that it represents an enormous source of emissions. And so the U.S. seeks to help lead the effort to address that. 

In the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which passed the Congress on Friday, we have the most transformative moment for U.S. infrastructure in generations, including over 17 billion dollars for ports and waterways. Efforts to electrify our ports and see increased throughput without the associated increase in emissions. 

These investments are going to compliment the progress of our Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance program, working with other government partners, industry, and academia. 

One of the most important tools that the world has in this moment is the International Maritime Organization. But in the context of the climate crisis, its current level of climate ambition must go further. That's why the U.S. is pressing for the IMO to adopt a goal of zero emissions from international shipping by 2050, along with a set of actions and standards to get us there. And we have co-sponsored a submission to the IMO calling for an acceleration of the GHG strategy. 

Which brings us to the central role of green shipping corridors, or zero-emission maritime routes, between two or more ports.

Today with the Clydebank Declaration, signatories mark a big step forward for green shipping corridors and collective action to combat climate change. 

As with so many such efforts, it is going to require so many parties to act in both a coordinated in an ambitious fashion, which is what the Clydebank Declaration does. And that is why the U.S. is proud to join the Clydebank Declaration today.

Our ports, if you'll forgive the metaphor, can be an anchor point for clean transportation systems. The establishment of these corridors as provided for by the Declaration creates the space for green shipping initiatives, investments, policies, technology, and training to come together.

And the U.S. is determined not simply to sign the Declaration, but to help right away in operationalizing it. Through our Quad Shipping Task Force that we're pleased to participate in, we're working toward establishing at least two low and zero emission shipping corridors for Quad countries in the Indo-Pacific. And today the Quad Task Force members agreed to terms of reference for our joint work, which is in alignment with the work that we're celebrating here. The task force is also bringing on board an inaugural port from each country. We believe initiatives like this will help the vision of the Clydebank Declaration come to fruition. 

Ultimately, our respective peoples are counting on us to confront the challenge in front of us with an unprecedented level of ambition and coordination. And this, we believe, is an enormous step. 

And if I could just close by acknowledging the eyes that are upon us from a new generation, which is candidly skeptical of the capacity of politics, of business, of any of the political and economic systems of the world to meet this moment. 

I think the legitimacy of political action itself is on the line. 

And yet the coordination that we see here, I think demonstrates that the pathway is in front of us, if we are ambitious enough to follow where that pathway leads. 

So again, thank you for the leadership that has brought us together and we are proud to be among you at the table working toward these ambitious goals.