Transportation Accounts for More Domestic Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Any Other Sector — More Than Energy, Industry, or Agriculture
February 23, 2021
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) today announced the planned reintroduction of the Generating Resilient, Environmentally Exceptional National (GREEN) Streets Act. This legislation would establish national goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the national highway system and help states adapt their transportation systems to the adverse effects of climate change.
The transportation sector has been the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States since 2016, accounting for over 28 percent of total emissions. Driving is the main source of these emissions, which continue to rise as people are making more frequent and longer trips.
“Tackling climate change is going to mean re-envisioning the current model of highways and long commutes to a model of safer, healthier, and more resilient communities,” said Rep. Huffman, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “With the GREEN Streets Act, we can transform how we measure success in the federal transportation program and how we hold federal and state decision-makers accountable for reducing carbon pollution. Through innovative, green solutions, we can build back a better transportation sector that restores the health of our communities and advances the nation’s clean energy goals.”
“Business-as-usual is building bad highways and breaking our planet — we can build smarter, safer, and healthier systems if we factor climate impacts and emissions into our decision-making process,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and co-author of the Green New Deal resolution. “We can advance the goals of clean energy, climate progress, and healthy communities, as well as fortify ourselves against the adverse impacts of climate change. An essential component of that effort is to re-envision how we plan for, construct, and maintain our national highway system, using climate measures that matter and ensure that we hold systems accountable.”
“When we look at building back better and addressing climate change, our nation’s highways present us with an incredible opportunity,” said Senator Carper, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “We need to establish bold goals for reducing transportation emissions and to deliver safe, reliable, zero-emission travel choices for the public. Our bill would set the bar for states to encourage them to reduce vehicle emissions while improving health and reducing congestion in the process.”
A copy of the GREEN Streets Act can be found HERE.
In the Senate, the legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.). In the House, the legislation is also co-sponsored by Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Bill Foster (IL-11), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).
Even with the interstate highway system completed, the federal transportation program has a singular focus on highway expansion, rewarding states that expand highways the most with more federal funding. With roads subsidized by the federal government, localities struggle to stay ahead of development that spreads further from the center of metro areas, forcing people to travel further to access jobs and services. The resulting growth in driving and congestion leads to demand for more roads, which induces even more driving, and even more emissions.
To address these issues, the GREEN Streets Act specifically:
- Directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish minimum standards for states to use to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on the national highway system;
- Directs the Transportation Secretary to establish measures that states can use to assess and reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions on the national highway system;
- Requires states that have fallen out of compliance with the per capita VMT standards or carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emission measures to dedicate federal highway funding to come into compliance;
- Requires states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to consider projects and strategies that reduce per capita VMT and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector; and
- Requires states and MPOs to publish an analysis of the impact on per capita VMTs and mobile source greenhouse gas emissions for each project that adds new lanes or otherwise increases traffic capacity and costs more than $25 million.
“Our transportation system gives many Americans no choice but to drive everywhere, which is no surprise because our transportation program is designed to consider only vehicle speed, not whether people (driving, taking transit, walking, rolling or biking) reach their destination. We need to measure what matters,” said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. “Doing so will help give Americans more freedom to choose how to get around, save them money, and also reduce the harmful emissions wreaking havoc on our climate. We are hopeful that the re-introduced GREEN Streets Act will resume an important conversation about aligning federal funding with the outcomes we deserve from our transportation system, and we are pleased to support it.”
“To address toxic air pollution and climate change, we need to transition to a transportation system built for the future, one that reduces our reliance on the car and offers a multitude of opportunities for getting around,” said Ann Shikany, a federal policy advocate at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “By getting states to come up with plans to reduce vehicle miles traveled, this legislation is a crucial first step toward a progressive, clean transportation future.”
Congressman Jared Huffman represents California’s 2nd Congressional District, which spans the North Coast of the state from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, and includes Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, and Del Norte counties. He currently serves on the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. In the 117th Congress, he chairs the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. He is the founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.
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