America’s transportation system is dangerously out of step with the nation’s climate goals, according to a new report written by Frontier Group and released by Environment America Research & Policy Center. 50 STEPS TOWARD CARBON-FREE TRANSPORTATION: Rethinking U.S. Transportation Policy to Fight Global Warming finds that transportation policy in the 21st century needs a new set of assumptions and priorities – with a central goal of preventing global warming.
“Many of America's transportation policies that we rely on today were designed to bring us out of the horse-and-buggy era. They worked a century ago, but they are no match for climate change -- in fact, they're holding us back in the fight against global warming,” said Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and author of the report. “We need a policy roadmap to 100% clean transportation.”
The report highlights existing policies that run counter to America’s emissions reduction goals – from excessive spending on highway expansion to outdated rules that hamper transportation innovations. It goes on to propose 50 common-sense policy solutions that can benefit communities across the country and reduce the risk of global warming.
Among the policy solutions proposed in the report are the following:
- Giving funding priority to low-carbon transportation options.
- Phasing out polluting vehicles and fuels through stronger fuel efficiency standards and electric cars.
- Supporting the creation of climate-friendly communities to allow every American safe and easy access to public transit, biking and walking.
- Fostering innovation to create opportunities for new transportation options, like carsharing and other forms of shared mobility.
“Our daily commutes are cooking the planet, but they don't have to. We have the technology and skilled workforce to build cleaner cars and the tools to give Americans cleaner choices for getting from point A to point B,” said Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions Director, Anna Aurilio. “States and the federal government should set ambitious goals for cleaner cars, invest in more public transit, and foster communities that enable people to walk and bike safely. We have solutions, now we need our leaders to make it happen.”
The planet is the hottest it has been in 115,000 years, and increasingly severe weather events, like Hurricane Matthew, underscore the importance of reducing the carbon pollution that fuels global warming. Transportation is now America’s leading source of carbon dioxide pollution, having surpassed power plants, and the nation’s transportation system produces more carbon pollution per person than any other country’s transportation. To prevent the worst impacts of global warming, the United States will have to nearly eliminate emissions from transportation by mid-century.
“To prevent the most serious impacts of global warming, we need to cut our carbon emissions to zero, and that means some big changes to the transportation sector,” said Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist at Texas Tech University. “Poor decisions we make today could lock in continued carbon emissions from transportation for decades. That’s why we must act quickly: we need a climate friendly transportation revolution, with clean and accessible mobility options for every person living in the U.S. and beyond.”
Large-scale reductions in carbon pollution from transportation, however, will take a new vision for transportation policy, and leadership from federal, state and local leaders to make it a reality.
“To meet our climate protection goals we have to have a zero-emission transportation system in place by mid-century, and because vehicles and infrastructure can last for decades that means we must begin the transition now,” said NextGen Climate America COO Dan Lashof. “The good news is that electric vehicle technologies are getting better and cheaper every year, just as we saw with wind and solar power once we committed to deploy them at scale.”
"There is no path to combating global climate change that doesn't address transportation emissions. Yet, states continue to waste billions in scarce transportation dollars on carbon-intensive infrastructure, including new and wider highways that often incentivize driving," said John Olivieri, U.S. PIRG’s 21st Century Transportation Campaign Director. "We must immediately change directions.”
Environment America Research and Policy Center is an environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener healthier future.
Frontier Group is a think tank which provides information and ideas to help citizens build a cleaner, healthier, fairer and more democratic America.