Greater Effort in Transportation Sector Needed to Meet State’s Air Quality Goals

In the 2018 Progress Report on California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375), CARB concludes that the state will not meet the mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030 and beyond without “a greater contribution from the transportation sector.”

The sector’s emissions are continuing to rise despite increases in fuel efficiency and decreases in the carbon content of fuel, and CARB is calling for “significant changes to how communities and transportation systems are planned, funded, and built.” The agency based this finding on its analysis of 24 data-supported indicators that assess the changes made to reduce emissions since enactment of SB 375 in 2008.

Need to cut mobile-source pollutants now

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Coalition President Thomas Lawson, because state agencies have been focusing on long-term programs rather than adopting policies to reduce mobile-source pollutants in the near term. For example, the CEC has decided against increasing funding for the Natural Gas Vehicle Incentive Project for the last two years, despite a waitlist of more than $6 million in projects. Also, CARB’s recent increases in funding for the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) and low-NOx engine incentives are too small to encourage replacement of a significant number of heavy-duty diesel trucks. And even though California has embraced RNG, it hasn’t done anything to encourage its use as a transportation fuel.

“CARB has been looking toward 2030, 2040, and even 2050—and there may or may not be significant technological advancements in zero-emission vehicles by then. But there’s a lot of work to be done right now, and NGVs can play a significant role in helping the state get on track to meet its long-term goals,” said Lawson.

New plan not needed; existing policies will work

CARB identified several strategies in the report for improving the state’s chances of meeting its long-term air quality goals, including pilot-testing innovative ideas to speed the adoption of clean, efficient solutions. To address these strategies and to work toward removing barriers to emissions reductions, CARB has recommended that the state convene a new interagency group to implement a “State Mobility Action Plan for Healthy Communities.”

“The state does not need a new committee to make a new plan—they need to act now on what they already have at their disposal,” said Lawson. “We think the state’s goals can be met with the current framework of policies. Some wrinkles just need ironing out.

“CARB should also include industry stakeholders in their conversations about how to best implement strategies,” he added. “If the goal is to help industries be cleaner, you need to hear from them what they need.”

The 2018 Progress Report is the first in a series mandated by SB 150, which requires CARB to prepare a report on progress related to the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act every four years.