USDOT Should Require States & Regions to Track Climate Pollution from Transportation
To swiftly and effectively tackle climate change, we need action at all levels of government. That’s why Move Minnesota strongly supports a proposed federal rule that will require states and regions to track greenhouse gas emissions from surface transportation.
The future of our transportation systems and our climate are deeply intertwined. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, representing 27 percent of the nation’s emissions in 2020, and it is the largest emissions sector in the State of Minnesota. More than half of these emissions come from passenger cars, light-duty trucks (including SUVs and minivans), and medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
As Move Minnesota emphasized on our recent letter to United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: Only by tracking these emissions can we begin to understand and address the long-term impact that transportation investments are having on our communities and our climate. The proposed rule would empower state and local leaders to better connect their transportation decisions with climate goals.
There is no time to waste as scientists’ warnings about climate pollution become increasingly urgent and as record amounts of federal taxpayer funds are already flowing to grantees from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The Georgetown Climate Center summed up the stakes in a recent issue brief: “IIJA could be an important part of the U.S. response to climate change. Or it could lead to more greenhouse gas pollution than the trajectory we are currently on. Where the actual outcome falls within that range will depend on the decisions made by state, federal, and local governments about how to spend the money made available by IIJA.”
Support and accountability are essential. To maximize the impact and potential of this proposed rule, Move Minnesota recommends:
- States and regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) should be required to track emissions from travel on all roads and set targets for reducing them, not just those on the National Highway System.
- States and MPOs should be required to take specific actions if they fail to meet the targets they set, such as committing to use their federal funding only for emission-reducing projects until the target is met. And/or: incentives could be provided for those states and regions that meet their targets, such as providing extra points in competitive grant programs.
- Both states and MPOs should be required to report every two years on the greenhouse gas performance metric, rather than limiting MPO reporting to every four years as proposed. Both states and MPOs also should be required to set 8- and 20-year targets for emissions reduction, to provide greater visibility and accountability for long-term plans.
Once the rule is finalized, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) should commit to providing technical support to states and MPOs to assist them in achieving their greenhouse gas reduction targets. For example, DOT should provide tools and best practices for modeling the emissions impacts of various types of projects, to ensure that state and local transportation planners have the information they need to select emissions-reducing projects.
In addition, DOT should commit to publishing regular reports on states’ and MPOs’ progress toward their targets. Accessible, user-friendly data will help state and regional policymakers and other stakeholders assess the impact of transportation decisions on emissions and adjust policies and programs if needed.
Twenty-four states are already measuring greenhouse gas emissions from their transportation plans. Now is the time for this commonsense practice to be adopted nationwide.