The transportation sector —which includes all modes of travel through land, air, and sea to move people and goods—now 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. Already in 2020, according to the EPA, transportation generated the largest share of greenhouse gases in the U.S.
In 2018, twelve states (and the District of Columbia) in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic responded, creating the Transportation and Climate Initiative to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. This initiative is still being facilitated by the Georgetown Climate Center.
On January 11, 2023, 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. There is a very effective graphic on page 5 of the Blueprint clarifying which of the different modes of travel offer the greatest long opportunities, as the administration works to meet the goal of net-zero GHG emissions economy-wide by 2050.
*Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years.1 The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. EPA tracks total U.S. emissions by publishing the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. This annual report estimates the total national greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with human activities across the United States.