States Ignoring Link Between Transportation and Climate

Report suggests current transportation policy in most U.S. states will likely worsen greenhouse gas emission trends.

With federal policy action on climate and energy appearing unlikely for at least the next couple years, public policy and financial analysts are increasingly turning to state-level analyses to inform policymakers, business leaders about the policy and business landscapes for clean energy, energy efficiency, and in the case of a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the link between transportation and greenhouse gas emissions.

NRDC released a report with Smart Growth America evaluating how well state-level transportation decisions are aligned with greenhouse gas emissions reductions efforts by examining a selection of key transportation policies currently in place in the 50 states.

The report, “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy” (pdf), examined 17 criteria across three categories: Infrastructure Policies, Investment Decisions and Touchstone Policies, and found that there is lots of room for state-level progress on reducing transportation-related carbon emissions. “[M]ost states use few of the available transportation policy tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, and in most cases make decisions that will likely increase emissions,” the report’s authors say. (Click to expand)

Only three states, California, Maryland and New Jersey scored in the top tier, with the rest of the states showing the most room for improvement. But even those states in the top tier scored no higher than a B-.

“Most states do not make any effort at all to connect transportation policy with climate change and energy goals, and some put in place systems that effectively sabotage these goals,” the authors write.

But the beauty of having more than 50 venues to experiment with transportation policy that can reduce emissions is that it leaves plenty of room for recommendations — and the authors make some for both state and federal levels.

State Policy Recommendations

  • Set a course to reduce emissions by setting per capita transportation GHG or VMT reduction targets.
  • Balance state transportation investments by using state and federal resources to support robust public transportation service, prioritize highway repair and safety over new capacity, and support non-motorized transportation.
  • Manage traffic with road use pricing tools and incentives for low-carbon transportation options through comprehensive commuter programs.
  • Link transportation and land use in transportation plans, implement growth management policies, and promote development in areas with high quality transit service.

Federal Policy Recommendations

  • Set a national transportation sector GHG reduction target to reduce emissions, and require states and regions to set similar targets.
  • Increase funding parity for clean transportation infrastructure.
  • Require consideration of GHG emissions in the transportation planning process.
  • Reorient federal transportation programs to support greater implementation of clean transportation projects.

Article by Timothy B. Hurst, appearing courtesy ecopolitology.

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