Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said his agency “is setting an example for customs authorities around the world to develop greater standards for global trade and collaborate with industry, stakeholder stakeholders and the public” as U.S. Customs and Border Protection is “uniquely positioned to promote a global green trade environment through cutting-edge practices and enforcement.”
The Green Trade Innovation and Incentives Forum, held Tuesday at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va., was a first-of-its-kind event hosted by CBP to discuss challenges and solutions surrounding climate mitigation, supply chain resilience, and environmentally beneficial innovation as these issues involve international trade.
A year ago, CBP introduced its Green Trade Strategy, noting that global supply chains may account for up to 80 percent of total carbon emissions across the globe and that environmental crime — including illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, illegal mining, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing — annually rakes in between $85 billion and $265 billion for entities including transnational criminal organizations.
The strategy hinges on four main goals: incentivizing green trade to promote environmentally-friendly trade practices and supply chains, strengthening environmental enforcement, promoting and investing in the deployment of innovative and sustainable trade practices by government and industry, and improving climate resilience and resource efficiency — decreasing greenhouse gas emissions associated with CBP operations.
At the forum, representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and other federal agency partners engaged with industry including importers and tech providers, trade associations, academic experts and nongovernmental organizations to move the ball forward on sustainable innovation.
“NATO recognizes climate change as ‘a defining challenge of our time with a profound impact on our allies security.’ The business of trade is no exception,” Miller said. “…If we fail to prepare, the consequences could be devastating. But we all know we can overcome these challenges together.”
CBP “recognizes the importance of making our operational footprint greener” as the agency has established metrics to “measure the environmental impact of our activities, in line with federal reporting requirements, and is in the process of establishing additional green trade targets and metrics,” he added.
In fiscal year 2022, CBP achieved a 69.6 percent reduction in scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions compared to the fiscal year 2008 baseline value, nearly double the agency’s initial goal to cut emissions by 38 percent.
But there is “a lot more to do,” Miller said. “We continue to assess and reduce scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions at facilities with the greatest amount of annual energy consumption, and at facilities that combust fuels onsite for heating, cooling, and other energy needs,” he said. “We also continue to implement measures to bring our real estate portfolio to net zero or close to net zero.”
CBP is working, for example, on an energy savings performance contract involving more than 75 CBP facilities across 15 states and Puerto Rico. “This project will improve energy conservation at roughly 6 percent of our 1,245 buildings,” Miller said. “Facility improvements will include more efficient lighting, upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, water conservation measures, and photovoltaic solar panel installation.”
CBP will also do two specialized projects funded by Department of Energy grants: the first will focus on the lighting solutions that improve essential performance and minimize lifecycle costs, and the second involves CBP building a PV solar panel array and battery energy storage system at Ramey Border Patrol headquarters in Puerto Rico to improve the facility’s resilience to natural disasters. At the busy San Ysidro Port of Entry, CBP and the General Services Administration are working together to improve sustainability.
“Currently, 35 percent of CBP’s real estate portfolio meets federal High-Performance Sustainable Building standards,” Miller said. “We are committed to achieving even greater levels of sustainability. Modernization efforts funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We are underway to upgrade 26 land border ports of entry to be more sustainable, energy efficient, and meet federal green building requirements.” By 2030, CBP aims to have at least 50 percent electric vehicles in its fleet.
“We are conducting a port emissions modeling and analysis study through the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories. The study will provide a baseline model for current commercial truck greenhouse gas emissions at land ports of entry and offer recommendations to reduce overall emissions and boost cargo processing efficiency,” Miller continued. “Furthermore, we have deployed our Truck Manifest Modernization program, an advanced electronic manifest, cut border wait times and reduced emissions from idling vehicles. Preliminary results showed that average processing times in primary inspection have been reduced from two minutes to about 30 seconds for more than 99 percent of the 45,000-50,000 trucks released daily. Before, less than 40 percent of truck manifests were processed in that short amount of time.”
CBP is also investing in the development of digital supply chain technologies, including digitizing remaining paper-based compliance processes, and is working with government and industry partners to optimize port business processing to reduce related greenhouse gas emissions through an open-source Port Community Information System.
Since its founding by CBP and EPA in January 2022, the Interagency Task Force on Illegal Hydrofluorocarbon Trade has stopped illegal shipments equaling emissions from nearly 173,000 homes based on electricity usage for one year, Miller said.
“CBP, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Department of State are currently coordinating to expand enforcement activities to target illegal logging operations in Brazil, which threatens the Amazon,” he added. “We are also partnering with Global Fishing Watch to deter illegal fishing by improving visibility into fishing vessel locations, and we are working with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership on a project in the Baja California Protected Zone to save the endangered totoaba fish and the vaquita porpoise.”
Miller stressed that international partnerships, such as with the World Customs Organization, are critical to defining “the global scope and degree of green customs”; CBP is contributing to the WCO’s Green Customs Action Plan expected later this year.
“Going forward, CBP will implement new initiatives to achieve green trade goals,” he said. “Our plans include reviewing the existing authorized economic, economic operator programs; surveying and collaborating with international organizations and governments, such as the WCO and the European Union; and engaging with industry partners, NGOs, and academic institutions to solicit ideas and perspectives.”
CBP wants to continue to hear from trade stakeholders and other government partners “to generate meaningful incentives,” Miller emphasized.