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Carbon Emissions

What are carbon emissions and why are they important?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the common type of gas emitted from the burning of fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil.

When CO2 is released into the atmosphere it remains there until it is absorbed in some form—primarily by the ocean, soil, animals and plants.  However, evidence suggests that CO2 is being released at a faster rate than nature can absorb it, causing an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere.

When sunlight reaches the earth’s surface, it can either be reflected back into space or absorbed by Earth.  Once absorbed, the planet releases some of the energy back into the atmosphere as heat. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) like water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) absorb energy, slowing or preventing the loss of heat to space. In this way, an excess of GHGs act like a blanket, making Earth warmer than it would otherwise be. 

This process is commonly known as the “greenhouse effect” and has been linked by scientists to global warming.  In this way, carbon emissions are not a local airshed issue, but instead are a key factor in the global issue of climate change.

How are carbon emissions measured?

In order to prioritize actions and measure results, PRPA conducts an annual inventory of carbon emissions.  Port emission inventories of energy consumption, criteria air contaminants, and greenhouse gases were developed as part of the study. The inventories were activity-based, accounting for the equipment fleets, activity rates and fuels consumption for marine vessels, rail locomotives, onroad vehicles, cargo handling equipment and administration.  The inventory includes all of the terminal activities of the port’s tenants, ship movements within PRPA harbour boundaries, and a landside area that incorporated most of the local rail and truck movements to and from marine terminals.

*CO2e refers to ‘Equivalent Carbon Dioxide’: the volume of CO2 that would cause the same level of global warming of another greenhouse gas.  (i.e. a measurement that allows all GHG’s to be measured collectively) 

How does the Port contribute to reducing global carbon emissions?

In the big picture, Prince Rupert’s shorter marine distances to Asian markets, and its efficient rail network to North America provides its shippers with the lowest carbon footprint per container on the west coast.

Locally, while Canadian port authorities have responsibility for environmental management, they do not have authority over emissions released by the rail and marine operators that frequent their ports.  Additionally, they have limited authority over practices employed by their tenants—regulatory actions that restrict emissions are implemented at the national level.  

However, the Port and its partners are committed to seeking voluntary improvements with respect to emissions that tend to be complementary to government actions and collaborative or incentive-based in nature.

In the case of carbon emissions, the port and its partners have several initiatives in which they are reducing the intensity of their carbon footprint.  Projects include:

  • Implementation of the Green Wave Program, which provides financial incentives for ships that use cleaner burning fuels
  • Availability of shore power at Fairview Container Terminal, which would allow container ships to use hydroelectric power instead of their own bunker fuel
  • Investigation of new local transportation routes, which would decrease the need for long truck trips from Fairview Container Terminal to Ridley Island via downtown Prince Rupert
  • Ongoing reinvestment by all terminal partners into new vehicles, machinery and equipment, which provides for increased fuel efficiency and alternative fuels or energies