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Toward a New Clean & Sustainable Economy


With air pollution dropping slightly due to the pandemic, an east coast group sees an opportunity to continue the trend. The Transportation and Climate Initiative is looking at the best ways to redesign the way we ‘do’ transit and that means cutting down on air pollution from fossil fuels. 

A climate change coalition says people want cleaner vehicles and more sustainable communities in what’s being called the new “clean energy economy." And they want government leaders to sign on to a funding mechanism to actually make it happen.

A group called the Transportation Climate initiative or TCI, surveyed people in east coast states on climate change. What it found, may be surprising.

"We think of our society today as being hyper-partisan, but when you really look at the polling data, you see that we all recognize the same set of problems that we're facing," says Wyatt Gordon.  Gordon is a lobbyist with the Virginia conservation network.

"Almost three quarters of people that were polled said that the federal government isn't doing enough to reduce pollution and that state governments need to step in. That’s 56% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 86% of Democrats."

And when it came to whether cutting carbon emissions should be a high priority, 4 out of 5 polled said definitely.

"83% of people is a pretty astounding figure to achieve in today's society, where they don’t agree on much of anything. That's a really strong mandate for more climate policies like this," says Gordon.

Each state that signs on to the idea will determine its own plans for handling the most important climate issues they’re facing                        

Gordon points out, “The Transportation and Climate Initiative is a way to say, we need to tax the pollution.”

“You’re seeing that a lot of communities with the worst rates of illness and fatalities (are) located along highways. That's because they've been suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma for a long time, because vehicle pollution is so toxic.” 

The Transportation and Climate Initiative is asking state governors to sign on to a plan to raise money for cleaner air, by taxing pollution and putting that funding into reducing emissions from transit and other sources. 


Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.