For any person or organization to try to “do something” about the climate crisis, the problem can feel overwhelmingly huge and complex.
Everything we do tugs on something else, and the struggle to find the “right way” to make a difference feels impossible. Announce you’re doing something on social media or at a party, and people are likely to inform you of all the ways you’re taking the wrong approach.
The thing is, we need to do everything. Everything helps, and we can’t afford to leave anything undone. We can’t choose one thing off the climate crisis list and leave the rest for later.
As an example of this, Oregon Environmental Council is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Moving people and goods in Oregon is responsible for nearly 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions, and these emissions are increasing over time, not decreasing. We will not reach our climate goals without reversing this trend.
Oregon Environmental Council believes that the state and local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties, need to do two things with our transportation system, as soon as possible, in order to achieve our climate emissions goals:
- Reduce the number of miles traveled by cars and trucks on roadways;
- Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the remaining miles driven as much as possible.
Our transportation system is currently built for the convenient movement of cars and trucks rather than people. We will have to re-think this system in order to reduce miles traveled by all motor vehicles, while also making sure to reduce emissions. We know from experience in Oregon and other places what kinds of solutions will help, and Oregon has the brainpower, the common sense, and the creativity to figure out how to do it in a way that’s right for us.
Transforming our transportation system will also have enormous benefits beyond climate impacts. We will reap greater equity, traffic safety, efficiency, fairness, human health, social health, and more. We can improve mobility and access, especially for people who enjoy the fewest benefits and suffer the greatest burdens, reduce the negative outcomes of transportation, and make our transportation system work far better for the movement of people and goods.
As we re-imagine this system, we know we must provide great alternatives to driving– from better public transportation to an ability to safely bike, walk and roll across all of our cities and towns. We also know the system will still include cars and trucks, though in smaller numbers. We need to make sure the cars and trucks that continue to be needed are the least harmful they can be.
Oregon Environmental Council supports transportation electrification as a necessary part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and air pollution) in the transportation system. We cannot leave this step for later. As we replace cars, trucks, boats, buses and other vehicles that will continue to move around our communities for decades, electric is the best option now and for the future.
Electric vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions and are cheaper over their lifetimes due to lower fuel and maintenance costs. Transportation electrification also means shifting our investment away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and supporting the growth of cleaner jobs. It’s not the only solution to the climate crisis, but it’s one of the many things that cannot be left undone.