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Transportation

To Meet Climate Goals, Think Outside the Electric Car

The Biden administration is plugging EV adoption to help the U.S. meet its climate goals, but electrification alone won’t do the job: We need to reduce vehicle use, period. 

A Tesla electric vehicle charges at a public charging station in December. 

A Tesla electric vehicle charges at a public charging station in December. 

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images Europe

When President Biden recommitted the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord on his first day in office, he set into motion what will undoubtedly be an ambitious climate strategy. Already, with his executive order to replace the federal government’s massive vehicle fleet with U.S.-made electric vehicles — quickly followed by a ground-shifting pledge by General Motors to sell EVs only by 2035 — we are witnessing a flurry of actions aimed at reducing emissions across various industries and sectors. After four years of backtracking, the U.S. is on the cusp of a meaningful policy response to climate change.

Unfortunately, the electric vehicles and charging stations that Biden has signaled will take center stage in his transportation climate strategy are not nearly enough to solve the problem we face. Transportation contributes the largest (and still growing) share of carbon emissions in the U.S., and electrification is a critical requisite to a carbon-free future. But in order to achieve climate targets, the U.S. must significantly reduce its use of cars, period.