Multi-Agency Blueprint to Decarbonize America’s Transportation Sector

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

Earlier this month the Biden-Harris Administration released the U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization. Developed by the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Blueprint is a landmark strategy for cutting all greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector by 2050, and is the first milestone deliverable of the historic memorandum of understanding signed by the agencies in September of last year.

The Blueprint is based on five principles: initiate bold action; embrace creative solutions across the entire transportation system; ensure safety, equity, and access; increase collaboration; and establish U.S. leadership. It presents a three-pronged approach to realizing a clean, safe, secure, accessible, affordable, equitable, and decarbonized transportation system for all:

  1. INCREASING CONVENIENCE by supporting community design and land-use planning that ensure services are located near where people live to reduce commute times, improve walkability and bikeability, and enhance quality of life and access to jobs and services;
  2. IMPROVING EFFICIENCY by expanding affordable, accessible, and efficient options like public transportation and rail, and improving the efficiency of our systems and vehicles; and
  3. TRANSITIONING TO CLEAN VEHICLES AND FUELS across all travel modes and vehicle types.

In addition to guiding federal agencies, the Blueprint is intended to send a strong signal to partners and stakeholders (including local, state, regional, county, and Tribal governments; industry; investors; and community and advocacy groups), inviting them to look to this document as a guidepost and framework to support and complement their own planning and investments and to further coordinate actions:

“Recognizing the urgency of the moment and the critical role that decarbonizing the transportation sector must play in tackling the climate crisis, stakeholders across the transportation sector should continue to pursue ambitious targets, seize the opportunity to implement change, and lead the decarbonization of our transportation system from every angle, starting from and building off of the strategies presented here.

This Blueprint articulates the strategies and the targets needed to enable a transition to a sustainable transportation system by 2050, building upon and expanding existing goals and ongoing efforts for every mode of transportation. It is an exciting first step toward realizing the vision of an improved and sustainable transportation future. Decarbonizing our transportation system will not come without challenges. However, with coordinated and bold actions across the federal government and with our partners, they are challenges that we can meet. We will continue to increase ambition, setting bold targets for improving our transportation systems and transitioning to zero-emissions vehicles and fuels on a timeline consistent with achieving economy-wide 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction goals.”

The transportation sector—which includes all modes of travel through land, air, and sea to move people and goods—accounts for a third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, negatively affecting the health and well-being of millions of Americans, particularly those in disadvantaged communities. Transportation costs are the second largest annual household expense in our country and for the poorest Americans, the financial burden of transportation is disproportionately and unsustainably high.

In announcing the release of the Blueprint, the Administration noted that:

“A well-planned transition to a decarbonized transportation system can address these and other inequities and provide equitable, affordable, and accessible options for moving people and goods. Further developing and deploying clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles and hydrogen and sustainable fuels, while also building out the supporting infrastructure for clean transportation will create good-paying jobs across all segments of the transportation sector and strengthening America’s energy independence.”

The Blueprint will be followed by more detailed decarbonization action plans, to be developed and implemented by these agencies in cooperation with governments at the State, local, and Tribal level, philanthropic organizations, the private sector, and global partners.