Port strengthens commitment to environmental sustainability by becoming first port on Great Lakes to implement a Climate Action Plan

Cleveland – September 7, 2023 — The Port of Cleveland has refreshed its strategic vision to spur job creation, expand economic vitality and advance environmental and recreation opportunities.  Particularly noteworthy is a commitment to a Climate Action Plan, with the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  The Port of Cleveland is the first port in the Great Lakes to adopt  such a plan. 

For more than a year, the Port’s board has intensely reviewed the Port’s needs and potential, and undertook a rigorous self-examination to consider how they could optimize the economic potential of being a port community.  Numerous public workshops reviewed port operations; facilities; commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; and other business areas.  

“A thriving port serves as the lifeblood of a community,” said Will Friedman, Port President and CEO. “To fulfill our role as an economic powerhouse, we must continually adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our community and the global economy.  This plan will help serve as a progressive blueprint to sharpen focus, enhance efficiency and strengthen international competitiveness, unlocking the vast potential inherent in being a port community.”

Friedman said the Port is evolving with changing technologies, trade dynamics and environmental sustainability goals.  

Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb said the strategic plan is “admirably aggressive in its objectives.  It promises focused leadership and allocates resources that will build resiliency to climate change impacts such as increased storm intensity and heavy rainfalls, while also decarbonizing the Port.”


The 2024-2028 Strategic Plan approved by the board of directors today envisions: 

Creating new opportunities for business expansion & job growth

The plan identified new opportunities for exporting Ohio-grown products and manufactured merchandise to Europe.  The Port is positioned to grow its container business with additional agricultural exports, wood products, lumber and polymers. Liquid bulk materials, namely palm oil, represent a significant revenue growth opportunity.  

Project cargo and cruise business also was identified as having great potential for growth and jobs impact.  

The Port is also planning to expand the reach of its development financing programs to serve more communities and organizations. 


Elevating the Port’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Recognizing the importance of creating a more equitable landscape, the Port has already increased its minority and female business participation goal from 20% to 30% for port projects.  

Going forward, the Port is resolute in its commitment to being both aware and intentional in efforts to encourage and facilitate the engagement of MBE/FBE, small and disadvantaged companies in procurement opportunities.  As an integral part of this commitment, the Port will proactively reach out to and support historically disadvantaged businesses, offering them resources and guidance to help them partner with the agency. 

The Port will also continue strategic community investments via its Community Impact Fund that uses a portion of development finance fees to make grants targeted at workforce development programs.  Through this fund, the Port sponsors the Argonaut partnership for CMSD’s Davis Aviation & Maritime High School with paid internships to work on Flotsam and Jetsam to clear debris from the harbor and river.  The fund has awarded $662,000 in grants since its inception in 2018.

“We are deeply committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in all facets of our operations,” Friedman said. “Our aim is to foster a business environment where everyone, regardless of background, has an equal opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the growth and success of the Port.”  


Net-Zero by 2050: Incorporating Sustainable Practices Across Port Activities With The Intention Of Becoming One Of The Most Environmentally Responsible Ports In The Nation. 

The Port has already taken on sustainability practices including sediment processing/management, stormwater filtration, and planning for electrification of Port equipment, docks and terminals. In addition, the Port today announced it was incorporating “green” in all port business practices, including being one of the first climate action plans among Great Lakes ports. 

The goal is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, in alignment with the Biden administration’s greenhouse gas reduction targets and goals of the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency

The Port of Cleveland has long been at the forefront of environmental sustainability, thoughtfully balancing economic vitality with our responsibility to ensure a healthy, clean waterfront for our neighbors and workers,” Friedman said.  

“Today, we embark on our most ambitious environmental initiative yet – a Climate Action Plan that charts the path toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,’’ he continued. “While we acknowledge that reaching this ambitious goal demands close collaboration with our industry, community and government partners, the Port has a proven track record of rising to challenges. We wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity to lead the way toward a cleaner, greener future for our region, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability and the well-being of our community.” 

The Port began tracking its air quality impacts in 2016, calculating the pollution emitted from equipment and vehicles associated with port activity, including cargo handling equipment, vessels, harbor craft and trucks.  Vessel emissions now are higher than they were in 2016 due to the addition of cruise ships coming through Cleveland and increased activity at the Bulk Terminal. Other emissions sectors are generally lower because equipment is now more efficient.

In addition to the obvious impact on the environment, the Plan positions the Port to better compete for federal grants such as the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Improvements grant for the Port’s Advanced Cargo Processing & Fiber Connectivity Project and the Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities grant program.

The Climate Action Plan addresses action items and areas of focus in buildings and energy efficiency, renewable energy, vehicles and equipment, marine operations and development financing.


Developing Civic Assets By Solving Community Challenges

The Port will continue to lead critical renewal initiatives for river infrastructure and renewal, including the stabilization of Irishtown Bend and leading the Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment & Resiliency (CHEERS) project that will create a new lakefront park with open spaces, trails, fishing and other amenities along roughly 80 acres between the East 55th Street Marina and Gordon Park on the city’s east side.  

“We are steadfastly committed to balancing a working and recreational waterfront,” said Stefan Holmes, Port Board Chairman.  “We have already begun endeavors to build out recreational assets along the riverfront and lake. We are also continuing our efforts to improve the environmental health of the watershed and protect water quality. And, of course, it is critical we continue our focus to ensure unimpeded navigation of the shipping channel and the beneficial re-use of dredged sediments.”  


The economic impact of the Port assessed by a leading national transportation economist concluded that, annually, the Port creates:   

  • 22,368 jobs
  • 4.7 billion in economic activity
  • $240 million in local and state tax revenue

The 2022 review showed that growth since the last economic impact study in 2016 was $100 million more in state and local income and 2,000+ more jobs.  The Port’s development finance capabilities were also assessed – coming in at $5.3 billion secured for 164 projects dating back to 1993. The majority of those projects were within the City of Cleveland. 

County Executive Chris Ronayne said he applauds the Port for “this visionary, forward-thinking program that will not only chart the course for the Port’s success, but also position it to become a leader in economic development and environmental sustainability in the country.”