The initial lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic presented an unfortunate opportunity to observe how abrupt, large-scale changes in traffic volume can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This study explores how carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Virginia’s transportation sector may have been affected by the changes in activity stemming from COVID-19 to inform more carbon-neutral policies as the state recovers from the economic downfall. Emission savings were calculated by multiplying the percent change from 2019 to 2020 in traffic volume from the Virginia Department of Transportation with the business-as-usual 2020 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimate of CO2 emissions for Virginia’s transportation sector. We estimate Virginia’s 2020 COVID-19 transportation CO2 emissions reduction is around 15.0% (14.2 to 15.7%), with reduced passenger vehicle traffic making up the bulk of the inferred reduction. This study highlights the utility of reimagining our current transportation sector as a way to implement sustainable, state-level carbon reduction policies, such as the Clean Car Standards.
Rakes, E. E., P. R. Grothe and J. S. Hoffman. 2021. Estimated 2020 CO2 emission reductions in Virginia’s transportation sector from COVID-19. Virginia Journal of Science 72 (1-2): 19 pp. https://doi.org/10.25778/ppjc-w636