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 Connecticut 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 Melanie Perl, Campaign Organizer at Environment Connecticut. “Governor Malloy 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 Connecticut, transportation makes up 42% of global warming emissions. To get on the right track, Connecticut will need to shift its transportation policies. Currently, Connecticut spends over 2 times as much on highways as transit.
“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The report highlights existing policies – from excessive spending on highway expansion to outdated rules that hamper transportation innovations – that hold America back in the fight against global warming.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 Connecticut 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.
“Governor Malloy has committed the state to make a plan of action about climate change and transportation, but Governor Malloy's current proposal to widen I-95 the length of the state, which would cost upwards of $11 billion fails to provide people in Connecticut with the viable and environmentally-friendly transportation options they need, making it one of the least effective ways to improve transportation,” said Drew Mickolas, intern with the ConnPIRG Student Chapter at Trinity College. “The state should instead prioritize investing in more sustainable and viable transportation options, not driving.”
Environment Connecticut is already working to shift away from dirty power and towards clean renewable energy like wind and solar. When it comes to transportation, Connecticut 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.
“To prevent the worst impacts of global warming, we’ll have to nearly eliminate emissions from transportation by mid-century,” said Chris Schweitzer, Organizer with the New Haven Healthy City/Healthy Climate Challenge Coalition. “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 Connecticut.”
“Mayor Toni Harp and the Board of Alders are working to build a New Haven that is walkable, sustainable, and healthy,” said Doug Hausladen, the director of the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking. “Our density, access to transit, and right of way infrastructure will allow us to move toward a zero-carbon future and make New Haven the model city for the future of transportation. This month we launched “Move New Haven”, a $1 million study to redesign our bus networks and improve mobility without a personal vehicle. We have a long history of leading in transportation here in New Haven, and Mayor Harp is excited to continue that tradition and help rethink transportation.”
Environment Connecticut 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 Connecticut.”
Environment Connecticut is an environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener healthier future. www.environmentconnecticut.org