New report provides roadmap for Virginia to achieve carbon-free transportation

Media Contacts

Numerous policies are available to reach ‘destination: zero carbon’

Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center

The transportation sector is the largest source of global warming pollution in Virginia. But a new report from Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group describes how Virginia 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.

This report is particularly relevant right now in Virginia with the passing of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a landmark piece of energy legislation, making Virginia the seventh state to commit to zero carbon electricity  by midcentury. Virginia is now looking at ways to reduce carbon pollution from transportation.

“The transportation sector is Virginia’s largest source of climate pollution and of pollutants like particulate matter and nitrogen oxides which directly impact public health. Yet, in the environmental community, we haven’t focused as much on figuring out how to accelerate the transition to clean transportation as we have clean power,” said Chris Bast, Chief Deputy of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “This type of report from Environment Virginia is an example of the type of work we need to identify the pathways to a clean transportation future and more transportation choices for all Virginians. The state’s role in reducing transportation pollution is to drive policy and invest in solutions. This report will help us do that.”

The Commonwealth is currently considering the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a program being developed by a coalition of states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The initiative would drive the adoption of strategies outlined in the report, such as cleaner vehicles and improved public transportation. 

“Virginia’s transportation system is due for a zero-carbon upgrade,” said Elly Boehmer, State Director with Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center. “With clean, electric cars and buses, and safe streets for walking and biking, we can take a big bite out of Virginia’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.

Along with policy recommendations, the report also highlights state and local governments around the country already taking actions to create a more sustainable transportation system. For example, Montgomery County, Maryland, has nearly 40 electric cars in its fleet and will be introducing four electric transit buses this spring to achieve a 20% reduction in fleet petroleum consumption. 

“Local governments have an opportunity to lead by example in the electrification of transportation. Much is happening – and must continue – to promote complete streets, build walking and biking infrastructure, and expand transit. Yet that is not enough,” said Jay Fisette. “Local governments and school systems must use their existing authority, aggressively seek partnerships and support from the state and utilities, and start the transition of their bus and sedan fleets to electric vehicles now.”

“Virginia should step up to the climate challenge and re-imagine transportation,” said Boehmer. “From Halifax County to Fairfax County, we can envision a better, carbon-free way to get around. It is a future that we must achieve if we want to make our state a healthy and clean place for future generations.”