Pollution from our nation’s cars, buses, trucks and trains is taking America dangerously off track to meeting climate goals, according to a new report written by Frontier Group and released by Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center. 50 STEPS TOWARD CARBON-FREE TRANSPORTATION: Rethinking U.S. Transportation Policy to Fight Global Warming concludes that 21st century transportation policy must quickly shift to new priorities, guided by a central goal of curbing climate-altering carbon pollution.
“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 Elly Boehmer, campaign organizer at Environment Virginia. “Governor McAuliffe should support cleaner cars, invest in more public transit, and foster communities that enable people to walk and bike safely. We have solutions, now we just need the right policies to make it happen.”
The planet right now is the hottest it has been in 115,000 years. Increasingly severe weather events, like Hurricane Matthew and tropical storms Hermine and Julia, underscore the importance of reducing carbon pollution that fuels global warming. In fact, extreme precipitation has increased by 33% percent in our region over the last 60 years, and in the past 56 years, Norfolk’s flood rate has increased 320 percent.Transportation is the leading cause of global warming pollution in the country and America’s transportation system produces more carbon pollution per capita than any other country. Yet, many of the nation’s existing transportation policies are a roadblock to critical climate goals.
In Virginia, transportation makes up 46% of global warming emissions. To get on the right track, Virginia will need to shift its transportation policies. Currently, Virginia only spends $7.50 per person on public transportation compared to $688.58 on highways.
“America’s transportation policies were created generations ago, when few people understood the implications of global warming. Now we do understand – and our approach to transportation must change,” said Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and author of the report. “The good news is that we have an ever-growing set of tools – including technologies that we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago – that can put us on a path to zero-carbon transportation, if we get the policy right.”
The report highlights existing policies – from excessive spending on highway expansion to outdated rules that hamper transportation innovations – that hold America back in the fight against global warming. It also proposes 50 common-sense policy solutions that can reduce the risk of global warming and benefit communities across the country by incentivizing alternatives to driving, supporting the growth of walkable communities, and ensuring that all cars on the road are as clean as possible.
Among the policy solutions proposed in the report are the following:
Putting low-carbon transportation options at the front of the line for public funding.
Phasing out polluting vehicles and fuels through stronger fuel efficiency standards and electric cars.
Supporting the creation of climate-friendly communities, allowing every Virginian safe and easy access to public transit, biking and walking.
Fostering innovation to create opportunities for new transportation options, like car sharing and other forms of shared mobility.
Our current transportation system is costing Virginians, costing our health, and costing the planet. We must tackle our transportation emissions to protect communities across the country and here in Virginia from harmful impacts such as extreme weather events and increased asthma attacks. Clean transportation means providing Virginians a way to get from point A to point B without harming our health, drastically changing our climate and depending on dangerous fossil fuels.
Environment Virginia is already working to shift away from dirty power and towards clean renewable energy like wind and solar. When it comes to transportation, Virginia needs to provide more alternatives to driving by supporting walkable and bikeable communities, connecting our cities with high-speed rail, and cleaning up the cars we do drive by strengthening vehicle fuel standards and transitioning our cars from oil to 100% clean renewable electricity.
Cities across Virginia have already taken steps to reduce pollution from transportation. The city of Richmond has developed a Bike Master Plan and completed several projects improving its biking infrastructure. And this fall, people can bike from the Fan to the Capital with the city’s new bike share program, ‘The B’. Charlottesville works to encourage alternative transportation by providing bicycle parking and administering the Bike Rack Giveaway Program. These efforts are important but more needs to be done to make our transportation pollution free.
“To prevent the worst impacts of global warming, we’ll have to nearly eliminate emissions from transportation by mid-century,” said Boehmer. “Bad decisions we make today about our transportation infrastructure could lock in pollution for decades. That’s why we must quickly pivot to new priorities. We need a clean transportation revolution, with clean and accessible mobility options for every resident of Virginia.”
Environment Virginia and other advocates urged state and federal decision-makers to move forward with climate-friendly transportation.
“We all know we need to cut carbon pollution from transportation and now we have a roadmap to get us there. With new ways to get around our cities, better public transit, cars that are cleaner than ever before, and electric cars fueled with sun and wind, every day paints a clearer picture of a zero- carbon transportation future. Our Governor needs to adopt these recommendations and lead the transition to clean transportation. It makes sense for our climate, our health, and Virginia.”
Environment Virginia is an environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener healthier future. www. environmentvirginia.org