News | October 4, 2021

The mission to reduce miles driven in North Carolina

Reducing our reliance on greenhouse-gas emitting vehicles and limiting the number of miles driven will combat climate change.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has announced the first meeting of a new group tasked with considering strategies to reduce the number of miles driven in North Carolina—in order to help cut the substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to cars in our state. The novel new Task Force will include SELC Attorney Kym Hunter, as well as a diverse group of advocates and government officials concerned with transportation and climate policy.

“Nationwide, the transportation sector is the largest contributor to climate-changing greenhouse gases and curbing emissions from vehicles is essential to meeting climate goals in North Carolina and through the country,” says Hunter. “We know there’s a better way to get where you need to go.” The Task force was first conceived two years ago when the Southern Environmental Law Center reached an historic settlement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation over a proposed highway in Wake County.

On behalf of Sound Rivers, Clean Air Carolina, and the Center for Biological Diversity, SELC secured tens of millions of dollars for habitat and water quality protection, and set in place a variety of other measures to increase environmental protection across the state. Read more here.

Several measures in the settlement focused on addressing climate change and reducing our reliance on greenhouse gas-emitting cars.

Unfortunately, much of the discussion about combatting transportation-related climate emissions in North Carolina has focused on a shift to electric vehicles. But to reduce climate change and its impacts, we need to do more to quickly achieve necessary emissions reductions. 

A recent report commissioned by SELC and NRDC demonstrated that cutting down driving—often referred to as reducing vehicle miles traveled, or “VMT”—in our state would be a much more effective solution in the near term than the slow shift over to electric vehicles.  As part of the SELC settlement, NCDOT commissioned a report earlier this year to examine the topic of reducing driving statewide.

NCDOT also agreed to host education sessions on the topic at its annual Transportation Summit. The new Task Force is a third part of the settlement that builds on the report and Summit. The Task force will take the groundbreaking step of setting VMT reduction targets for the state, and consider specific recommendations for how the state, and local municipalities can meet those goals. 

The first meeting will be on October 8 and will involve local elected officials, DOT board members, advocates, engineers and state employees.