EU Ports Energy and Carbon Savings Project: Options for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Small and Medium-Sized Ports (on-going)

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“There are already a lot of existing tools to become more low-carbon and more energy efficient. But unfortunately the existing tools are made for the bigger ports, and are not so easy to implement for the smaller ports.” Wim Stubbe, PECS Project Coordinator, Port of Oostende


In 2018, 173 countries adopted a goal to reduce the carbon emissions of global shipping by at least 50 per cent by 2050 (UN Climate Change, 2018). While this effort will focus mainly on changes at the ship level, there is an important role for coastal communities to play in reducing emissions from ports. To this end, several large ports have made ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction commitments. This case study focuses instead on options for small and medium-sized ports, highlighting the work done through the Ports Energy and Carbon Saving Project (PECS) in Europe.

The issue

CO2 emissions from maritime shipping reached 932 million tons in 2015 – 2.6 per cent of total global CO2 emissions and a 2.4 per cent increase from 2013 (Olmer et al., 2017). With the expansion of international trade, shipping emissions are expected to grow by as much as 50-250 per cent by 2050 (IMO, 2015).

While the broader challenge of decarbonising maritime transport focuses mainly on alternative fuels and propulsion technologies for ships, there is an important role for actions taken at the port level. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, these actions can also help reduce the local air pollution created by docked ships, which have harmful health impacts on coastal communities.

Reducing GHG emissions at ports includes both:

  1. Reducing emissions from ships at berth; and
  2. 2. Reducing emissions from port operations.

Reducing emissions from ships at berth usually involves offering some type of incentive for lower-emitting ships, such as reduced port fees (see Table: Large ports with environmental port fees), or requiring them to adopt some type of low-carbon practice, such as connecting to shore power while at-berth (e.g. California’s At-Berth Regulations).1

Reducing emissions from port operations is more varied, but generally involves some combination of:

  • Measuring port-level GHG emissions;
  • Installing low-carbon power at the port;
  • Installing energy-efficient lighting and building retrofits;
  • Installing energy-efficient port equipment (e.g. vehicles, linkspans, roll-on/roll-off ships, etc.).

The response

EU Ports Energy and Carbon Saving Project

Several ports around the world are now undergoing major transformations towards low- or zero-carbon emissions. For example, the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands has a plan to reduce its emissions by 90 per cent by 2050, while the Port of Oslo recently announced its plan to become zero-carbon (Gerretsen, 2018; Lindeman, 2019).

The EU Ports Energy and Carbon Saving Project (PECS), however, has set its focus on reducing GHG emissions at small and medium-sized (SMS) ports, which often lack the human and financial resources of their larger counterparts. “Small and medium sized ports and marinas don’t have enough resources in staff or in money, so for them it is really a challenge to understand what kind of solutions they can implement in order to meet a low-carbon management scheme,” said Wim Stubbe of the Port of Oostende.2 2

The project is a collaborative effort between 10 partners, including ports, municipalities, companies and universities across the UK, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, which have come together to develop, test and validate various tools, methods and technologies that can help SMS ports reduce their carbon emissions. It will run from 7 December 2017 to 30 June 2021, with a total budget of €8.1 million from the EU.

The tools and methods being tested in the project include:

  • A methodology and protocol for energy auditing in SMS ports;
  • An assessment of the potential for cost-effective renewable energy at SMS ports;
  • An assessment of the potential for energy-saving options at SMS ports; and
  • A tool to help SMS port mangers identify the best mix of renewables and energy saving options.

The project is also piloting several low-carbon technologies suitable for SMS ports, most of which are currently in place, including:

  • A 100 kw medium-sized offshore wind turbine at the Port of Oostende (Belgium) providing electricity to a port terminal (installed June 2018);3
  • A liquid natural gas (LNG)-powered linkspan at Portsmouth International Port (UK), which also operates more quickly, resulting in fuel savings for ships (installed March 2018);4
  • A waste recycling unit at the Port of Dunkirk (expected to be operational by Q3 2020);5
  • An energy pontoon designed and built by a startup company BPS (Blue Power Synergy), with wind generation, solar generation and energy storage at the Port of Oostende (Belgium) (testing in Q3 2020).6
  • An IT-enabled Local Energy Market (LEM) platform to enable flexible renewable energy distribution at Omgevingsdienst IJmond (Netherlands) (in development).7

Key lessons learnt

One of the main objectives of PECS is not only to reduce carbon emissions from project partners but also to provide a model and guidance for other SMS ports. To this end, the project conducts feasibility studies on all of the tools, methods and technologies adopted, so that other SMS ports can learn from its experience. Currently, dozens of feasibility studies and guides are available on the PECS website.8









European Union Ports Energy and Carbon Savings Project

Wim Stubbe, PECS Project Coordinator, Port of Oostende: [email protected]

Sources and further reading

Gerretsen, I. (2018) ‘Zero Carbon at Sea? Rotterdam Port Eyes a Greener Future’. Reuters, 23 October. https://

IMO (2015) Third IMO Greenhouse Gas Study 2014. London: IMO.

IMO (2018) Port Emissions Toolkit Guide No.1: Assessment of Port Emissions. London: IMO.

ITF (2014) Shipping Emissions in Ports. Paris: OECD.

ITF (2018a) Reducing Shipping Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lessons From Port-Based Incentives. Paris: OECD.

ITF (2018b) Decarbonising Maritime Transport Pathways to Zero-Carbon Shipping by 2035. Paris: OECD.

Lindeman, T. (2019) ‘Oslo Wants to Build the World’s First Zero-Emissions Port’. Grist, 9 November. https://grist. org/article/oslo-wants-to-build-the-worlds-first-zeroemissions-port/

Olmer, M., Comer, B., Roy, B., Mao, X. and Rutherford, D. (2017) Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Shipping, 2013–2015. Washington, DC: ICCT.

UN Climate Change (2018) ‘World Nations Agree to at Least Halve Shipping Emissions by 2050’. News, 14 April.

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Community-led Mangrove Restoration and Conservation in Gazi Bay, Kenya: Lessons From Early Blue Carbon Projects (on-going)

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

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“Mikoko Pamoja is an innovative project that has shown that a local mangrove conservation scheme can have positive sustainable development impacts by way of protecting threatened ecosystems and improving the livelihoods of local community members.” – Eva Schoof, Programme Manager, Plan Vivo


Dozens of “blue carbon” projects are currently underway around the world. But whether or not these projects live up to their potential as significant carbon sinks depends on both their ability to deliver real carbon reductions over a sustained period of time and, equally important, their capacity to deliver real value to the local communities that own them. This case study provides an overview of an early blue carbon project in Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya, which has achieved both of these goals.

The issue

Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses and saltmarshes are known for their beneficial role as nursery habitats for marine life, and as natural barriers to extreme weather like flooding and storm surge. But they are also important sinks of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, presently storing an estimated 42 billion tons of CO2e (Siikamäki et al., 2012).

These ecosystems are also quickly disappearing around the world, as they are converted to other uses such as agriculture, aquaculture and residential and commercial development. Globally, scientists estimate that up to half of all mangroves have been lost in the past 50 years.1 When mangroves are converted, nearly all of the CO2 they store is released into the atmosphere, resulting in significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. One estimate puts annual emissions from the loss of these “blue carbon” ecosystems at 215 million tons of CO2e annually, with the majority of these emissions coming from Southeast Asia, western Africa and Mexico (Siikamäki et al., 2012).

Efforts to slow the rate of global deforestation using carbon markets (i.e. REDD) are now being applied to these marine ecosystems. Projects that conserve coastal ecosystems (instead of converting them to other uses) can generate carbon credits (carbon offsets) for the GHG emissions they prevent, which can be sold in carbon markets or to individuals, thus providing a financial incentive for conservation. With the highest rate of carbon stored per hectare, and the largest global geographic coverage (as compared with seagrasses and salt marshes), mangroves represent the greatest opportunity for blue carbon projects, particularly in Asia and Oceania (Siikamäki et al., 2012).

There are now several dozen blue carbon projects in place around the world. But whether or not these projects live up to their potential as significant carbon sinks depends on both their ability to deliver real carbon reductions over a sustained period of time and, equally important, their capacity to deliver real value to local communities. An early blue carbon project in Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya has achieved both of these objectives.

The response

In 2010, after losing about 20 per cent of their mangrove forests to timber harvesting, residents of Gazi Bay, Kenya partnered with the UK charity Plan Vivo and the Scotland-based Association for Coastal Ecosystem Services (ACES) to launch a mangrove conservation and restoration project, which involves both the prevention of further mangrove deforestation and new reforestation efforts. As a result of the project, mangroves covering 117 ha of land in Gazi Bay are now protected from illegal deforestation by full-time guards. In addition, nearly 500 members of the community participate in the regular planting of new mangroves.

The Mikoko Pamoja project also generates income for the Gazi and Makongeni communities through the sale of carbon credits, which are created from the CO2 emissions avoided by the project. These credits are generated through a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) agreement between Plan Vivo and the community. From 2014 to 2018, the project generated 9,880 credits, representing 9,880 tons of CO2 avoided. Payments to the community resulting from the sale of these credits to date have totalled $58,591 (Mwamba et al., 2018).

This funding has made it possible for the community to hire a full-time project manager and two full-time guards to prevent illegal deforestation. Additional income has funded community projects, such as the purchase of books and the installation of clean water pumps at local schools.

Key lessons learnt


One of the keys to the success of the Mikoko Pamoja project is the high level of participation, ownership and support from Gazi and Makongeni residents. Plans for the use of the land and the revenues generated were agreed and are implemented in a transparent way, so that participants understand the limits placed on the land, as well as the resulting benefits.

This is not always the case. For example, participants in other blue carbon projects have subsequently expressed dissatisfaction with both their loss of access to the mangrove resources and the resulting payments from the project. “Compared to what we got, they got a lot… I don’t know what this carbon thing is about, but this is our environment and these are our trees. We planted them and we’re going to use them no matter what it costs us,” one participant of a blue carbon project in Senegal said (Wylie et al., 2016).

In addition, the Mikoko Pamoja project also took the time to understand and address some of the negative impacts the project could have on the local community. For example, project partners planted pine trees outside of the mangrove project site to provide the community with an alternative source of building materials. Unless blue carbon projects take these additional steps to ensure that the communities’ needs are met, they may be unable to sustain the project and to prevent project “leakage” (i.e. the movement of deforestation activity from one location to another).

“The Mikoko Pamoja project’s success likely stems from several key aspects. First and foremost, the local community has actively supported and participated in the project,” said Ariana E. Sutton-Grier, Visiting Associate Research Professor at the University of Maryland.


The relatively small-scale of the Mikoko Pamoja project (117 ha) has prevented it from accessing global compliance carbon markets, such as United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change mechanisms. This has led to smaller markets for its carbon credits. But its small size has also enabled the project to stay relatively simple, avoiding the extra costs and administrative complexity of complying with complex global mechanisms. This was also the case for a smaller blue carbon project in Vietnam (Wylie et al., 2016), and may be the most viable route for smaller projects.


The Mikoko Pamoja project does not account for the carbon stored within the protected land’s soil, which is likely even larger than what is stored in the mangroves (Pendleton et al., 2012). Not accounting for this soil carbon prevents the project from achieving its full financial potential (Wylie et al., 2016).However, measuring soil carbon requires building capacity and technical expertise that would likely add costs and complexity. Recent blue carbon projects in the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh include soil carbon in their carbon accounting methods and may provide useful lessons for future projects (ibid.).

Sources and further reading

  • Bird, W. (2016) ‘Are “Blue Carbon” Projects a Win for the Climate and the People?’ Yale Environment 360, 3 November. mangroves_blue_carbon_win_for_climate_and_for_ people
  • Mwamba, M., Wanjiru, A., Huxham, M., Shilland, R. and Ruzowitsky, L. (2018) ‘2017-2018 Plan Vivo Annual Report, Mikoko Pamoja’. Submitted by the Mikoko Pamoja Community Organization.
  • Pendleton, L., Donato, D., Murray, B. et al. (2012) ‘Estimating Global “Blue Carbon” Emissions from Conversion and Degradation of Vegetated Coastal Ecosystems’. PLOS One, journal.pone.0043542
  • Plan Vivo: Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya Project: https://
  • Siikamäki, J., Sanchirico, J.N., Jardine, S., McLaughlin, D. and Morris, D.F. (2012) Global Options for Reducing Emissions from the Degradation and Development of Coastal Ecosystems. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future.
  • Wylie, L., Sutton-Grier, A.E. and Moore, A. (2016) ‘Keys to Successful Blue Carbon Projects: Lessons Learned from Global Case Studies’. Marine Policy 65: 76-84

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World Oceans Day: Mapping the Commonwealth one coral reef at a time

Celebrating World Oceans Day 2020, on 8 June, the Commonwealth Secretariat kicked off with the first Commonwealth Blue Charter webinar in its new series.

With 45% of coral reefs in Commonwealth waters and more than 90% of reefs globally predicted to be lost to climate change, NOW is the time for action. This webinar highlighted the efforts member countries and Vulcan Inc. are undertaking to map and accelerate protection and restoration of these precious ecosystems.

The event was hosted by The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, with a special address from Her Excellency Dr Farah Faizal, High Commissioner of Maldives to the UK. The event highlighted the actions and progress of three Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups:

Vulcan Inc. demonstrated the Allen Coral Atlas which is bringing together multiple datasets to develop a detailed global coral atlas. Countries can utilise this map to inform their policy decisions to protect and restore coral reefs.  Maps for Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Fiji, Jamaica, Kenya, Mozambique, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga and Tuvalu are available on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub.

During the webinar, a new short film produced by the Commonwealth Blue Charter highlighting the 10 Action Groups was premiered.

Over 200 people from 56 countries around the world participated in the webinar, which finished with a panel discussion including questions from the audience.

Panelists of the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC during the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, speaking during the webinar

Watch event highlights

Watch full event

Post-COVID recovery should lock in ocean sustainability, says Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is urging governments to ensure their countries’ post-COVID economic recoveries are environmentally sustainable and safe for the ocean.

Forty-seven of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries have a coastline while 25 are either small island developing states or ‘big ocean states’ relying heavily on the ocean for food and income.

Sustainable blue and green economies

On World Oceans Day (8 June), Secretary-General Patricia Scotland calls on countries to reform development strategies in a way that supports vibrant and sustainable blue and green economies.

She said: “The ocean is the life blood of so many Commonwealth countries and our environment should be the cornerstone as we put plans in place to recover our economies. The Commonwealth covers more than a third of coastal oceans in the world, contributing to a global ocean-based economy valued at US$3 to 6 trillion per year.

“COVID-19 impact has radically altered some of our key economic sectors and transformed the way we live, communicate and do business. While the fallout from the pandemic has had a huge impact on our blue economies, it also presents a crucial opportunity to strategise on how to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable economic practices built on climate resilience and ocean sustainability.

“The Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for global ocean action in the international landscape today. I commend the work of our member countries through the action groups and welcome the support we have received from national, regional and global partners, enabling us to mobilise together for ocean health.”

Blue Charter action groups

The Blue Charter is the Commonwealth’s commitment to work together to protect the ocean and meet global ocean commitments. Ten action groups, led by 13 champion countries, are driving the flagship initiative. More than 40 countries have signed up to one or more of these action groups, and counting.

Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups include:

  • Sustainable Aquaculture (led by Cyprus)
  • Sustainable Blue Economy (Kenya)
  • Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (Australia, Belize, Mauritius)
  • Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods (Sri Lanka)
  • Ocean Acidification (New Zealand)
  • Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji)
  • Ocean Observations (Canada)
  • Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (marine plastic pollution – United Kingdom, Vanuatu)
  • Marine Protected Areas (Seychelles)
  • Sustainable Coastal Fisheries (Kiribati)

Members of the private sector, academia and civil society – including Vulcan Inc, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Nekton Foundation and many others – are also engaged as Blue Charter partners.

Commonwealth Blue Charter – All Champions Meeting

Countries driving the Commonwealth Blue Charter project will meet in Cyprus from 21 to 24 March 2020. They will reflect on what they’ve achieved over the past year, and agree on a strategy for the coming year.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a landmark agreement by leaders to cooperate on ocean action. Since launching in 2018, 10 action groups led by 13 ‘champion’ countries have rallied Commonwealth members around pressing ocean issues like marine pollution, coral reef restoration and climate change.

Champion countries will share experiences, best practices and new ideas.

For more information, please contact Heidi Prislan, Commonwealth Blue Charter Adviser: [email protected] or [email protected]

Commonwealth countries taking lead on ocean-based climate action

A 14-strong international panel working to accelerate action for ocean protection features seven Commonwealth member countries.

Australia, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Ghana, Jamaica and Kenya all helped produce a report unveiled at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit which found that ocean-based climate action can play a much bigger role in shrinking the world’s carbon footprint than was previously thought.

In fact it could deliver up to a fifth of the annual greenhouse gas emissions cuts needed in 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Reductions of this magnitude are larger than annual emissions from all current coal fired power plants world-wide.

The report, launched in New York, is entitled ‘Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change: 5 Opportunities for Action’ and was produced by an expert international high-level panel made up of 14 heads of state and government.

The study is the first ever comprehensive, quantitative analysis into the role ocean-based solutions can play in the fight against climate change.

The report suggests the following solutions would help curb climate change, contribute to the development of a sustainable ocean economy, protect coastal communities from storms, provide jobs and improve food security:

  • Scaling up ocean-based renewable energy – which could save up to 5.4 gigatonnes of CO2e annually by 2050, equivalent to taking over a billion cars off the road each year.
  • Decarbonising domestic and international shipping and transport – which could cut up to 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2e annually by 2050.
  • Increasing the protection and restoration of “blue carbon” ecosystems – mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes – could prevent approximately 1 gigatonne of CO2e from entering the atmosphere by 2050.
  • Utilising low-carbon sources of protein from the ocean, such as seafood and seaweeds, to help feed future populations in a healthy and sustainable way

Australia is investing AUD$70 million in the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), a 10-year $329 million collaboration between 45 Australian and international partners to develop innovative and sustainable offshore industries to increase Australian seafood and marine renewable energy production.

Fiji is committing to making its shipping sector 100 per cent carbon-free by 2050 while Kenya will incorporate blue carbon ecosystems into its nationally determined contribution, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF.

Namibia is committing an additional US$5 million towards ocean research and protection over 2019/2020.

The report comes on the back of significant progress on the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Agreed unanimously by leaders in April 2018, the Blue Charter commits all 53 member countries to work together on solving crucial ocean-related challenges.

To date, 12 ‘champion’ countries have stepped forward to rally fellow members around nine key areas, including marine pollution, ocean acidification and the sustainable blue economy.

‘Fiji is leading on the Blue Charter Action Group on ‘oceans and climate change’, Kenya on the ‘sustainable blue economy’, Australia is co-leading on ‘coral reef protection and restoration’ and Canada on ‘ocean observation’.

Commonwealth Head of Ocean and Natural Resources, Nick Hardman-Mountford, said: “This report unequivocally shows that ocean based climate action is integral to reducing the global carbon footprint.

“Commonwealth countries have already come forward with game changing commitments. The Commonwealth Blue Charter that all Commonwealth countries adopted last year provides an action-orientated collaborative mechanism for countries to address ocean issues. We look forward to working with the Commonwealth countries to share experiences, take real action and lead the way forward.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said: “Fiji is leading Pacific Island States in a united and visionary response to the ocean’s untapped potential to combat global warming.

“We are collectively committed to cutting 40 per cent of emissions from Pacific shipping by 2030, and we’re making our shipping sector 100 per cent carbon-free by 2050. Together, we’re moving towards managing our waters sustainably.”

‘This report was swiftly followed by a study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which warned that humanity is in a race against the pace of climate change and our ability to respond to it and calls for urgent, ambitious and collaborative action.