In California, approximately 40 percent of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the transportation sector, the single largest source of GHGs by sector.1
Climate change experts working to reduce emissions from the transport sector continually refer to the need to take action on all “three legs of the stool”: we need increasingly efficient vehicles, decarbonized fuels, and to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). VMT represents the number of miles driven by an individual, group, or society.
Reducing VMT may be the most difficult “leg” to address. While developing more efficient vehicles and decarbonizing fuels are inherently technical problems, reducing VMT is a behavioral issue. How do we get people to drive less? If we don’t decrease or stagnate VMT, the emissions reductions associated with increased drivetrain efficiency and improved emissions capture technology can easily be overcome by people spending more time on the road.
EIN believes that there is a need for a fresh look at how California will address its VMT problem. There is clearly a need for the general policies, like SB375, that reduce the overall need to drive though good land use planning, as well as the need to employ pricing policies to increase the general cost of driving (relative to other transportation options). But, these types of policies are not likely to be enough.
The answer starts at the individual level. We, as a society, need to look more deeply into who is driving, and why, to uncover segments within the generic population of VMT that are amenable to targeted solutions. If we are to succeed in reducing emissions in the near and long term, VMT reduction has to play a critical role.
For resources on how to reduce your individual driving needs visit the “Reduce your Driving” section of our site.
1Climate Change Scoping Plan: A Framework For Change. Pursuant to AB 32, The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. December 2008.