From Main Street to Washington, We Need a 2020 Climate Road Map

New and hopeful beginnings: They’re what we usually anticipate as one decade ends and another begins. 

On the contrary, the 2020s have already ushered in an uncertain and somber vision for the future. There is one thing that’s clearer than ever: We need urgent and immediate climate action.

Catastrophic fires in Australia have tragically taken human lives, burned millions of acres of land and caused the incomprehensible extermination of an estimated 1 billion animals. My home state of California has also been scorched; large portions of the Midwest have flooded, and the East Coast has been hit by several major storm events. The climate crisis is upon us, making these disasters stronger, more frequent and increasingly costly.

Given the urgency, we must enter the new decade with a resolution to focus on solutions, enacting and enforcing bold action to do our part in addressing the global climate crisis.

Complex problems demand comprehensive solutions such as those proposed recently in the House of Representatives. One of those bills, the NO EXHAUST Act (H.R. 5545), recognizes a painful truth that the transportation sector — the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — is still almost completely reliant on fossil fuel consumption despite recent advances in transportation electrification.

A meaningful, economy-wide price on carbon is urgently needed to rapidly and fully decarbonize the U.S. economy. Short of that, the NO EXHAUST Act, if passed, would empower state and local governments with grants for clean transportation initiatives.

The act provides flexibility to invest in climate solutions that work best at the state and local level. The NO EXHAUST Act would also promote the domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and the overall electrification of the transportation sector, ultimately creating new American jobs, improving air quality and reducing GHG pollution.

Democrats and Republicans increasingly agree on climate change, but even incremental steps such as the NO EXHAUST Act are stuck in partisan gridlock. Absent federal action, states and cities have taken the lead on clean transportation.

We recently saw New Jersey set ambitious statewide goals to move toward transportation electrification. Not only did Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ratify the goals by signing the “Light Duty Plug-in Electric Vehicle Rebate Program” into law, he put real resources behind the incentives needed for EVs and charging infrastructure.

On the other side of the country, California maintains the nation’s boldest targets for EVs, calling for 5 million on the road by 2030. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is going toe-to-toe with the Trump administration on the right to regulate tailpipe emissions.

Cities and regions are also doing their part to tackle the complex yet critical challenge of climate change. That’s why the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator recently joined public and private-sector partners to set the nation’s most ambitious zero-emissions transportation goals through the unprecedented Transportation Electrification Partnership.

The Greater Los Angeles region’s zero-emissions transportation goals are mapped out in the Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap 2.0, with sector-specific targets outlined to achieve our collective goal for a 25 percent reduction in GHG emissions — and air pollution — above and beyond existing commitments tied to California state law and the Paris climate accord. 

The result? Cleaner air for LA residents and a dramatic reduction in the region’s transportation sector GHG emissions. We’ll welcome the world for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games to a Los Angeles that leads in mobility innovation, showcasing America’s clean, efficient and equitable transportation and transit solutions. In addition to the bold targets we’ve set together, LACI is funding pilot projects and demonstrations with local communities and startups that help bring direct benefits of the green economy to neighborhoods burdened by air pollution that often lack the mobility solutions they need.

By 2028, LACI and our partners are working together to ensure: 

— That EVs account for 30 percent of all light-duty passenger vehicles on the road and at least 80 percent of all vehicles sold across the region; 

— That 20 percent of all trips in single occupancy vehicles shift to zero-emissions public transport, bikes or other active transportation options; 

— And that all public investments for goods movement (e.g. trucks, charging stations, etc.) will advance zero-emissions solutions, helping transform I-710 into the nation’s first zero-emissions goods movement corridor.

Many states, cities and the infamously car-centric Los Angeles are doing their part to work toward a clean transportation future. Now it’s time for Congress to put its foot on the accelerator of an EV.


Matt Petersen is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, and previously, he served as the first-ever chief sustainability officer for the City of Los Angeles.

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