YOKOHAMA, Japan -- An American push to establish "green shipping corridors" is key to reducing carbon emissions from the shipping industry, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday while touring the port of Yokohama near Tokyo.
Buttigieg was in Japan to attend a meeting over the weekend of transport ministers of the Group of Seven advanced economies, who reaffirmed a commitment to reducing emissions from the transport industry and to keeping navigation free and open in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. is seeking to develop and strengthen partnerships with "like-minded countries" to improve maritime security and keep shipping and aviation corridors open, he told The Associated Press in an interview.
Emissions from maritime transport account for about 3% of total global emissions from human activities. Some 40% of Yokohama's emissions come from its port.
About 90% of all traded goods are moved by sea, and maritime trade volumes are expected to triple by 2050, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Studies predict the industry's share of greenhouse gas emissions could reach 15%. That has added urgency to efforts to cut such pollution.
The International Maritime Organization, which regulates commercial shipping, wants to halve its greenhouse gas releases by midcentury and may seek deeper cuts this year.
The Port of Los Angeles signed an agreement in March with port authorities of Yokohama and Tokyo to establish the so-called green shipping corridors, aiming to promote emissions reductions through the use of net-zero emissions vessels and other efforts to reduce the flow of greenhouse gases from ports and shipping.
It also has formed similar partnerships with Singapore and Shanghai, and the U.S. has begun discussing setting up such corridors in Southeast Asia. The initiative is also under discussion by the Quad, which includes Japan, the U.S., India and Australia.
Yokohama is the closest major port to North America across the Pacific and is a major regional hub.
Japan is working to reduce fossil fuel use and promote hydrogen and ammonia as alternative fuels. Yokohama plans to build a terminal for ships to import hydrogen, officials said. Other facilities in Yokohama allow a ship that is idling at the port to be powered electronically instead of burning heavily polluting marine fuel oil.
Similar initiatives are being promoted in U.S. ports, Buttigieg said, adding that Japanese leadership in developing hydrogen as fuel is going to be "a big part of the future."
The Biden administration is pushing to speed up the transition to renewable and less polluting energy sources. While attending G7 meetings in April in Sapporo, northern Japan, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm toured the world's first and only liquefied hydrogen carrier, a ship that showcases Japanese efforts to transform heavily polluting coal into emissions-free hydrogen power.
Japan aims to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, with the goal of becoming a "hydrogen society." But its hydrogen industry is still in its initial stages, and still mostly reliant on hydrogen produced using fossil fuels.
"We know it will take more time for these to be deployed on a widespread basis, but you have to begin somewhere," he said.