UKMPG strongly supports reducing carbon emissions in order to limit potentially damaging climate change and to improve the efficient use of finite resources. Ports have a major role to play, with shipping by far the most carbon friendly of the major transport modes. Ports also facilitate the use of more carbon efficient connecting links such as coastal shipping and rail, with over half of UK rail freight starting or finishing its journey at a port. Ports themselves are taking a range of steps to reduce emissions in their own operations and improve energy efficiency.
Ports also play a major role in the development of renewable energy (including offshore wind energy), and in forward planning to mitigate potential effects of climate change (possible future global sea level rise and projected increased storminess could have significant consequences for port operations). Ports in flood risk areas are already working with flood risk management authorities to plan for the maintenance and improvement of flood defences, and all ports handling over 10m tonnes per annum are now preparing reports on adapting to climate change.
Ports, necessarily, are located in estuaries or on the coast, often in areas of special scientific interest, outstanding natural beauty or environmental sensitivity. Ports are keenly aware of their environmental responsibilities and performance, and go to great lengths to mitigate any potential environmental impact from their activities.
A wide and often complex range of environmental legislation, both from the UK and the European Union, affects ports and can bring a high level of bureaucracy to new and existing projects. UKMPG is actively involved in pressing for the right balance to be struck between protecting and improving the environment and making it easier for ports to bring forward new developments which benefit the economy while respecting the coastal and marine environment.
An example is the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. These zones enable the protection of a range of nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. UKMPG fully supports the creation of Marine Conservation Zones provided this can be done in a way which takes full account of the important contribution which marine development by ports and other seabed developers makes to the national and local economy. However, some proposed MCZ designations would cause significant socioeconomic problems without delivering major environmental benefits. For example, there is a proposal to designate a 58-mile stretch of the tidal Thames from Southend in the east to Richmond in the west in order to protect wildlife which can currently be found in the area, principally the tentacled lagoon worm. This takes in all the commercial terminals on the river including the new deep sea container terminal at London Gateway which is a key part of the Thames Gateway redevelopment programme. Cumulatively these Thames facilities make London the second biggest UK port in tonnage terms, employ around 40,000 people and contribute over £3bn annually to the UK economy. UKMPG opposes the creation of an MCZ in this area, which would cause significant losses to jobs and the economy for questionable levels of environmental benefit.
UKMPG hosts a joint Environment Group with the BPA, allowing members to share best practice and jointly discuss issues of concern. This group has regular contact with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the RSPB.