Climate change key as national discussion around infrastructure revs up

National Infrastructure Week provides a chance to highlight resiliency

A group push a car to safety on a North Carolina road washed out by Hurricane Florence in this photo taken in the aftermath of the devestation 2018 storm.  (© Getty Images)

As discussion of a major federal infrastructure package continues, a coalition of national groups is again calling for substantial new infrastructure investment. The groups’ National Infrastructure Week, currently underway, highlights needs for improving the country’s bridges, roads, rail, transit, water and sewer systems, as well as broadband.

Many of those needs are real, but any major investment in infrastructure must be made with the threats of climate change front and center. Infrastructure investment must be tailored to help lower carbon pollution, protect carbon sinks, and increase the resiliency of communities to the impacts of climate change that are already being felt.

There is no doubt that the United States has substantial infrastructure needs but we must spend funds wisely and we can’t afford to ignore the clear link between transportation and our climate crisis.”

—Senior Attorney Trip Pollard

SELC is committed to encouraging smart infrastructure improvements involving projects that lower carbon emissions — increasing clean transportation options like rail and mass transit, and accelerating cleaner vehicles — while also preparing communities for increased storms, flooding, and other climate change impacts we are already witnessing. We also need to prioritize the maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure to protect investments of taxpayer funds that have already been made and to reduce the destruction of forests, wetlands, and other resources that store carbon and help buffer communities from storms.

President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats recently agreed in very broad terms to work toward an infrastructure package of up to $2 trillion. While it’s difficult to imagine such a substantial investment actually passing Congress, it’s vital that any proposal coming forward not just write a blank check for destructive projects but that it protect the environment, strengthen communities, and help lower carbon emissions.

“There is no doubt that the United States has substantial infrastructure needs,” said Trip Pollard, Senior Attorney and Leader of SELC’s Land and Community Program. “But we must spend funds wisely and we can’t afford to ignore the clear link between transportation and our climate crisis, especially now that transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas pollution.”

Transportation improvements should be aimed at maintaining existing infrastructure, reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled, promoting cleaner vehicles, encouraging sustainable land use patterns, and increasing resilience to climate risks.

Any serious investment in critical infrastructure that doesn’t have a focus on reducing or adapting to climate change is a poor investment of taxpayer dollars.

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