When the U.S. passed its most important climate legislation ever, the Investment Reduction Act (IRA), it didn’t tackle transportation very squarely. Not in the sense of what climate science authorities, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), say is the path to deep decarbonization, a sequence known as “Avoid-Shift-Improve.”
What passing the IRA did do was show a recipe for making climate policy in the U.S. Which is to create things people care about, and use the chance to generate popular support and hopefully win constituents for even more reform.
US federal agencies have launched a new framework, The US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization: A Joint Strategy to Transform Transportation, which aims to do that for transportation.
The blueprint composes, for the first time, a national policy on transportation decarbonization that is holistic according to climate science and speaks to modern politics.
The framework brings key agencies together to chart a path to do the following:
- Increase convenience by implementing system-level and design solutions. This means, in part, making communities more walkable and building more housing near the places where people need to go.
- Improve efficiency through mode shift and more efficient vehicles. This includes making public transportation work better and become more relevant.
- Transition to clean options by deploying zero-emission vehicles. Electrification of everything.
The blueprint suggests, correctly, that status-quo transportation policy costs people money, time, and freedom that they could potentially have back. And it shows a way forward that is about making people’s lives better through more mobility options, especially those who transportation to date has left out.
It also agrees with the findings of IPCC and others in asserting that decarbonization through transportation requires a set of solutions—in particular, mobility and electrification—that need to work together. And hence, a commitment to transportation decarbonization means advocacy for any one solution requires being thoughtful about the wider strategy.
The framework needs funding, which theoretically could come in part from current subsidies that prop up car dependence and work against the many opportunities to create abundance through transportation highlighted in the blueprint. It also needs reciprocity from states, municipalities, and elsewhere.
With the new Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, leaders who want a modern way to structure investments for transportation climate action have a good framework translated for the U.S. to support and build with.