We all want clean, affordable, accessible, safe and efficient ways to get around. Our transportation system is a crucial part of everyone’s life, enabling or restricting us from accessing essential services, job opportunities, or helping break the cycle of poverty.
We all rely on our transportation system, yet transportation fuels are responsible for nearly half of our climate and harmful air pollution in the Pacific Northwest: 46% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions and 39% of Oregon’s. Health professionals link this air pollution directly to asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. Due to racist public policies like redlining and inner-city highway construction, toxic concentrations of diesel pollution in busy trucking corridors, bus depots, distribution hubs, and seaports disproportionately affect low-income and communities of color. Cleaning up transportation pollution will help cut climate pollution, improving public health while addressing environmental racism in our transportation system.
Transitioning to electricity as a fuel
Shifting to zero-emission vehicles that get their power from clean energy is one of the fastest ways we can clean our air and our transportation system. Achieving this vision means electrifying vehicles economy-wide including but not limited to; personal vehicles, medium and heavy duty trucks, construction and agriculture equipment, buses and more.
Although heavy duty vehicles comprise 10 percent of all vehicles on the road, they account for nearly 25 percent of total U.S. climate pollution from transportation, and 45 percent of NOx emissions (nitrous oxide; a greenhouse gas roughly 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide). This is why we need to prioritize every tool to clean up the delivery trucks, transit and school buses, big rigs and other vehicles that make up the medium and heavy-duty transportation sector. Getting zero-emission trucks on the road is a public health imperative and has been a decades-long priority of environmental justice advocates. Replacing dirty diesel-powered trucks with their zero-emission counterparts can clean the air we breathe, reduce climate emissions, and create green jobs.
Commercial aviation accounts for two percent of global carbon pollution, a figure projected to grow to between three and 4.7 percent by 2050 without concerted action to curb emissions. Accordingly, a comprehensive solution to the world’s climate predicament requires a strategy to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint. Industry leaders recognize this imperative and accordingly have set a goal of reducing the sector’s carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050. In 2011, Climate Solutions facilitated the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN), a multi-stakeholder process to develop sustainable and economically viable aviation biofuels in the Northwest.
Marine vessels, long-haul trucks, and airplanes will likely need to rely on lower carbon liquid fuels for some time to reduce their carbon pollution. Just as we are expanding our ability to produce clean electricity, we can source our biofuels from sustainable feedstocks, including used cooking oil, dairy manure, sewage treatment and other waste streams that would otherwise only increase our emissions.
Reducing miles traveled, increasing ways to get around
While shifting to electricity as a fuel is part of our solution, it doesn’t solve all of our other transportation related problems. For example, if all of our vehicles became electric overnight, we would still be stuck in traffic jams and we would continue to have a unacceptably high number of vehicle related deaths. While we need electric cars, trucks and buses, we also need to make it possible to get around safely, accessibly, affordably, and efficiently by walking, rolling, and taking transit. Reducing the amount we need to drive to access our daily commutes and essential services like visiting the doctor or going to the grocery store not only reduces our carbon pollution, but also increases safety, cuts congestion, and increases our quality of life.
Key solutions for clean transportation
There are many policy pathways to accelerate the transition to clean transportation, including changing how to fund transportation investments and shifting away from fossil fuels. All West Coast jurisdictions from British Columbia to California have Clean Fuel Standard policies in place to reduce pollution from transportation. Clean Fuel Standards work by requiring oil refineries and importers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels, providing more low-carbon fuels, and by promoting vehicle electrification. In addition to the climate benefits of reducing transportation, these policies are hugely beneficial for public health. A recent study found that California’s Clean Fuel Standard could save $8.3 billion in avoided public health costs by 2025 because of fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations, lower rates of lung cancer and heart attacks, and thousands of fewer lost workdays.
In addition to statewide policy solutions, we are working with local governments, transit districts, and utility providers to equitably accelerate transportation electrification by adopting medium and heavy duty zero-emission regulations, building more publicly accessible and affordable charging stations, promoting financial incentives for individual and fleet EV purchases, supporting transportation options and programs that are inclusive to community needs, encouraging transit agencies to buy zero-emission electric buses, and working in coalition to advocate for a clean and just transportation system.
High hopes and great expectations: a political shift on climate
Washington's legislative session begins. So does the Biden administration.
Cutting pollution with clean fuels: a top climate priority for Washington
Right now, Washington is a lonely outlier on the West coast: the only state that is not benefiting from a Clean Fuel Standard.
The Clean Fuel Standard gets its first virtual hearing. Be "there."
This year's legislative session is taking place online—but you can still sign in to testify, or to register your support for climate action. We'll keep you informed!
The Path Forward on Climate Change in the Northwest
Is there room for climate action in the coming year, given all our other challenges? You bet there is. (We're also looking back—read our Climate Action Report 2020!)
Paris! we just can't leave you
Clean energy advances through local elections We need national and international action to fight climate change, but states and cities have also been a critical piece of the solution.
Mayor Mark Gamba on Measure 26-218 and local climate action
We recently interviewed Mark Gamba, Mayor of Milwaukie, Oregon, about the Let’s Get Moving 2020 ballot measure, the transportation improvements he’s most excited about, and the growth opportunities for our region in the decades to come.
A Win for transit riders, disability community, clean air and less congestion
WA's Supreme Court strikes down controversial initiative that threatened transportation improvements and investments across the state
Seattle's Proposition 1: Yes to transit!
To address the climate crisis, clean up our air, and protect our communities' health, we need more clean-energy transit.
Clean Trucks for Justice
Our state needs to prioritize cleaning up the delivery trucks, transit and school buses, big rigs, and other commercial vehicles that make up the medium and heavy duty transportation sector.
Give for a brighter future
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Savitha Reddy Pathi, Deputy Director, at 206-854-6630.
Join our email list to learn about what we do and how to get involved.
• Our report: Transforming Transportation: How to cut our pollution and achieve our climate goals in Washington and Oregon
• Pathways to cut pollution
• Are we ready to handle all-electric transportation?