On the eve of the first legislative hearing in the U.S. House on comprehensive proposals to fight global warming, Environment America released a new report today that details more than 20 examples of cutting-edge policies and practices that communities, states, and countries are using to reduce global warming pollution. The report highlights Arlington, Virginia’s commitment to transit-oriented development, which eliminates an estimated 35,000 single-passenger automobile trips to workplaces each day, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by tens of thousands of tons every year.
“Solutions to global warming are already at work in cities and states across the nation,” said Environment America Federal Global Warming Program Director Emily Figdor. “We know what we need to do. Our leaders in Congress just need to step up,” she continued.
The report, Global Warming Solutions that Work, spotlights Arlington, Virginia as a success story. Arlington was one of the nation’s first suburbs to embrace what is now known as “transit-oriented development” – the construction of communities where residents can use a variety of modes of transportation to get to and from work. Now Arlington CountyPittsburgh, Denver or Dallas. Yet, despite this tremendous growth, traffic on the area’s streets has grown only modestly because residents are far more likely to walk or take transit to work than their counterparts in other suburbs. In fact, 40 percent of residents take transit to work and about 10 percent walk, thanks to investments in transit service to Washington, D.C. and smart land-use planning that has created vibrant, compact, mixed-use communities around transit stops. has more office space than the downtown areas of
Across the country, the report finds that cities and states across America are achieving impressive results in the fight against global warming:
- Texas has added more than 4,000 megawatts of wind power generating capacity in the last decade. Wind power now produces about 3 percent of Texas’ electricity, enough to avoid about 8 million metric tons of global warming pollution per year.
- New Jersey doubled its solar power generating capacity within just two years through aggressive public policies that promote solar panels on rooftops in the Garden State.
- California uses 20 percent less energy per capita than it did in 1975, thanks to strong energy efficiency policies for buildings and appliances.
- Wisconsin avoids about 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year through its innovative programs to promote energy efficiency in industry – programs that also help save businesses money and keep jobs within the state.
- Portland, Oregon, has doubled the number of bicyclists on city streets in just six years through investments in bicycle infrastructure and bike-friendly transportation policies. The percentage of people who bike to work in Portland is now eight times the national average.
- Southeastern Pennsylvania saw a 20 percent increase in the number of riders on energy efficient trains linking HarrisburgPhiladelphia following investments that increased travel speeds along the line. A similar 20 percent ridership jump occurred recently on the Northeast’s Acela high-speed train line.
The report also finds that other nations have also made significant progress, with lessons for the United States:
- Germany recycles 60 percent of its municipal waste (compared to 32 percent in the United States) and has kept its garbage output steady for nearly two decades thanks to policies that put the responsibility for recycling waste on product manufacturers and not individual consumers and taxpayers.
- In Israel, more than 90 percent of homes use solar water heaters, which dramatically reduce the need for natural gas or electricity for water heating. Israel requires that all new homes come equipped with solar water heaters.
- Copenhagen, Denmark, has revitalized its downtown by giving pedestrians and bicycles preference over cars in large parts of its city center. Walking and cycling now account for more than 40 percent of all trips made in Danish urban areas.
- Spain has sparked the creation of new renewable energy industries through aggressive clean energy policies. SpainUnited States and elsewhere. now ranks third in the world for installed wind power capacity and is the world’s fourth leading market for solar photovoltaics. Spanish companies are increasingly taking a leading role in renewable energy development in the
In addition, the report documents that communities and states across the country are laying the groundwork for even larger changes in the years ahead:
- Concentrating solar power, which uses heat from the sun to generate electricity, has the potential to serve a large share of America’s electricity needs. Southwestern states have enacted policies that are contributing to a solar power boom that could result in more than 4,000 megawatts of solar thermal power coming on line in the next several years.
- Plug-in hybrid vehicles can dramatically reduce carbon dioxide pollution from vehicles while weaning America from its dependence on oil. Austin, Texas, citizens and public officials are pushing for the development of plug-in hybrid vehicles and enlisting people from around the country in the effort.
- “Green” buildings and zero-energy homes could revolutionize America’s building stock by providing pleasant, comfortable spaces with dramatically lower impact on the global climate. Pittsburgh and other cities are driving innovations in green building, while engineers, home builders and researchers are building the first wave of “zero energy homes” across the country.
Finally, addressing global warming will require efforts from people of all walks of life. Communities like Greensburg, Kansas – a small rural town nearly wiped off the map by a devastating tornado in 2007 – and the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City are showing how residents can come together to weave efforts to reduce global warming pollution into strategies for community development.
The report recommends that cities, states, and the federal government build upon the successes of these efforts by setting mandatory, science-based caps on global warming pollution, adopting strong clean energy policies, and investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“We have the solutions to combat global warming. What is missing is the commitment on the part of our leaders in Congress to implement these solutions on a broad scale and to do what is necessary to respond to the challenge of global warming,” concluded Figdor.
On Thursday Figdor will testify at a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on five legislative proposals to address global warming. This is the first such legislative hearing in the House. The hearing is at 930am in Rayburn 2123.