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 Massachusetts 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 Jacqueline Meyncke Risch, Campaign Organizer, Environment Massachusetts. “Governor Baker 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, underscore the importance of reducing carbon pollution that fuels global warming. 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 Massachusetts, transportation makes up 45% of global warming emissions. To get on the right track, Massachusetts will need to shift its transportation policies.
“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The report highlights existing policies – from excessive spending on highway expansion to outdated rules that hamper transportation innovations – that hold America back in the fight against global warming.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 Massachusetts resident 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.
“Health risks from both ozone and particle pollution include lung tissue redness or swelling, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, lung cancer, and premature death.” said Casey Harvell, Public Policy Director of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Even on good air quality days, vehicles on busy highways can create high pollution levels up to one-third of a mile away. Most people have their health impacted by pollution from the transportation sector – even if they are unaware of it.”
Environment Massachusetts is already working to shift away from dirty power and towards clean renewable energy like wind and solar. When it comes to transportation, Massachusetts 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.
Environment Massachusetts and other advocates urged state and federal decision-makers to move forward with climate-friendly transportation.
“The Frontier Group’s new report, 50 Steps Toward Carbon-Free Transportation, sets forth actions we can take right here in Massachusetts to encourage alternatives to driving, such as biking and walking, and when we do drive, to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles. The report not only shows that carbon-free transportation is achievable but also outlines the pathway forward to a climate-friendly transportation future.” said Megan Herzog, Attorney, Conservation Law foundation.
Environment Massachusetts is an environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener healthier future. http://www.environmentmassachusetts.org