New report provides roadmap to achieve carbon-free transportation

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Josh Chetwynd

Morgan Hayward

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Numerous policies are available to reach ‘Destination: Zero Carbon’

Environment America Research & Policy Center

PHILADELPHIA – Transportation is the largest source of global warming pollution in the U.S., making it climate enemy number one. Globally, America’s transportation system is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire economies of France and the United Kingdom combined. But a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group describes how we can build a zero-carbon transportation future – all while cleaning our air and creating safer, healthier communities.

Entitled Destination: Zero Carbon: Three strategies to transform transportation in America, the report looks at the factors underlying high transportation emissions, and proposes new policy solutions. Americans drive more than 10,000 miles a year on average, often in inefficient gas-burning vehicles. Poor public transit and unsafe conditions for walking or biking leave many Americans with few good low-carbon transportation options.

“America’s transportation system is due for a zero-carbon upgrade,” said Tony Dutzik, chair of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s climate team and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. “With clean, electric cars and buses, and safe streets for walking and biking, we can take a big bite out of America’s contribution to global warming. This report shows how it can be done.” 

The report outlines three goals that are achievable with proven policies and existing technology. These objectives can help eliminate emissions from cars and light trucks and contribute to America’s transition to a zero-carbon transportation future. They are:

  • All new light-duty cars and trucks sold after 2035 should be electric vehicles (EVs).

  • U.S. transit agencies and school districts should replace all transit and school buses with clean electric buses by 2030.

  • The U.S. should at least double the number of people who travel by foot, bike or transit by 2030.

“Global warming demands that we set ambitious goals to get off fossil fuels – including ones for our cars and trucks,” said Gideon Weissman, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Luckily, we now have the technology and the tools to meet those goals – from advanced zero-emission electric vehicles to proven policies that can help Americans drive less and live more.”

Along with policy recommendations, the report also highlights state and local governments around the country that are already taking action to create a more sustainable transportation system. 

For example, the three largest bus transit systems in the country – New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) – have plans to transition to all-electric bus fleets. And as of the end of 2018, nearly 1,500 communities across the country – primarily towns and small suburbs – had adopted “complete streets” policies to make streets safer and more accessible to people using a variety of travel modes.

This report is particularly relevant right now in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic because 12 governors are currently considering the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional program being developed to help reduce climate pollution and build a modern, clean transportation system. The initiative, which is so important considering federal rollbacks to clean car standards, would drive the adoption of strategies outlined in the report, such as cleaner vehicles and improved public transportation. The comment period for the Transportation and Climate Initiative will end on Feb. 28.

“Whether we are commuting to work or visiting family across town, we need to make more of our trips carbon-free,” said Morgan Folger, clean cars campaign director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Climate change is the most urgent challenge of our generation, and, while there’s no excuse for waiting to act in any sector, this is especially true with transportation.”