Climate Change and Transportation

Traffic on I-5

Transportation is the largest source of climate change-causing pollution in the Puget Sound region.

In February 2017, the Agency's Board adopted economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets of 50% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. These targets are based on the most recent scientific findings on the need to achieve significant emissions reductions to minimize the devastating impacts of climate change.

Since almost half of all GHG emissions in our region are from the transportation and mobile sector, the Agency’s Board of Directors directed staff to identify and evaluate potential candidate actions that could achieve significant reductions in transportation-related GHG emissions. This report provides a summary of those candidate actions.

To achieve the necessary emission reductions according to the Agency’s targets, staff recommends implementing candidate actions in the following three focus areas.

  • Zero-emission vehicle adoption
  • Promote alternative fuel use
  • Influence and increase mode-shift

While we developed the proposed candidate action and GHG emission reduction estimates with the best available information, there are still factors we cannot identify with certainty. What we are certain of is that GHG emissions are directly related to a changing climate that impacts our region, our air quality, and our vulnerable populations. These negative impacts will grow and worsen without actions to reduce our GHG emissions and improve our environment. As our strategic plan guides us, we must help our region “do its part and more to protect our climate.” Success will be challenging, but failing to defend the future is not an option.

Transportation and Climate Policy

ZEV Mandate

In 2020, the Washington State Legislature passed SB 5811 to move forward a Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate. The law -- which has also been adopted in eleven other states as of 2021 -- will require automakers to ensure a certain percent of vehicles sold each year are ZEVs. The percent of ZEVs sold must increase over time. The ZEV Mandate will make it easier to purchase or lease ZEVs by expanding the number of ZEVs and the variety of ZEV models available for consumers.  

Clean Fuel Standard

In 2021, the Washington State Legislature passed HB 1091 to create a Clean Fuel Standard. This brings Washington in line with the rest of the West Coast as California, Oregon, and British Columbia already have similar policies. The standard will require the carbon intensity of fuels to decrease over time, and encourages alternative clean fuel use -- such as biofuels and electricity -- while reducing fossil fuel use.  

Taken together, the ZEV Mandate and Clean Fuel Standard will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector over the coming years.