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Friday, June 18, 2021

UC researchers introduce policies for zero carbon emissions by 2045

Researchers from four UC campuses, including UC Davis, worked together to make a plan for California’s transportation emission goals

Researchers from UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and UCLA are taking steps to neutralize California’s transportation carbon emissions by 2045, according to a report released in April. 

As a leader in sustainability, the state is making plans to improve its environmental awareness.

“California is seeking to become more green and sustainable,” said Bernadette Peters, the executive director of the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis. “In order to achieve these goals, California is focusing on transportation to reach carbon neutrality.”

UC Davis has a goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. The campus is a Platinum Bicycle Friendly University, and driving down transportation emissions on campus requires the encouragement of bicycle use, according to Daniel Sperling, a UC Davis professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the leader of the report. 

“[This is achievable by] continuing to make biking safe and easy, improving pavement quality and making it safer at intersections,” Sperling said. “The city and campus must work together.” 

In addition to the use of bicycle transport, discouraging the use of gasoline transportation and incentivizing electric transport are large parts of the policies proposed by the report. 

“[The policies] have implications for consumers,” Sperling said. “Some of them are creating incentives such as creating fees and rebates for consumers.” 

Beyond the use of purchase incentives, there are a wide variety of economic benefits as well. 

“In California, you get some tax breaks for owning an electric vehicle,” said Lewis Fulton, the director of the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways program. “Electric vehicles are reaching a point to be competitive with gasoline vehicles in purchase price, operation costs—as the costs of electricity is lower than what it costs to run a gasoline vehicle—and lower maintenance costs, [since] you don’t have to change the oil.” 

Within a number of years, the price differences will decrease and electric vehicles will become widely available to the public, according to Fulton, but the transition to purely electric vehicles is still farther in the future.

“If things go to plan, by 2035, there will be no new cars that are gasoline,” Fulton said. “They are going to have to be zero emission, so either a plug-in electrical vehicle or a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.” 

He also said that aggressive policies on vehicle ownership should not be taken until around 2030 to allow the public time to react. 

Beyond the main campus, there is room for improvement as UC Davis begins to expand.

“There are a lot of opportunities to look forward to as we are expanding our Sacramento campus, so that we can have both campuses be a representation for really great sustainable policies,” Peters said. “This new expansion requires extra effort when looking at housing and transportation to and from the campuses to ensure a small carbon footprint.”
Written by: Emily Redman — campus@theaggie.org

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