Clean Transportation as National Security 

by Jennifer Manfre, US Army Veteran

CALSTART is honored to have U.S. military veteran staff members and offers thanks to these veterans and those among its member organizations. Veterans bring commitments to service and to excellence in the clean transportation sector, and their continued service is a reminder that advances in this industry are key to national security.  

With COP26 headlines noting advances towards addressing the climate crisis, including CALSTART’s own Drive to Zero’s Global MOU success, there is opportunity to celebrate. However, for those who keep a watchful eye on the link between climate change and national security, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report had worrisome news. The report noted that changes to climate are happening faster and more severely, and that impacts, such as continued sea level rise, are now irreversible.  

The link between climate change and national security is clear. Senior Advisor for Climate at the Office of the Secretary of Defense Joseph Bryan recently laid this out during his comments at the Congressional Clean Energy EXPO and Policy Forum. He noted that competition for resources and influence is heating up in the melting Arctic, increased migration north to U.S. borders is driven by extended drought in Central America, and regional security and development in the Middle East are at risk due to water shortages and extreme heat. Even here at home, stronger and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires are impacting military readiness.  

The IPCC report also noted that there is still hope for mitigation measures, if enacted swiftly and aggressively. Clean transportation solutions play a key role in this needed action. Transportation accounts for almost 30 percent of U.S. emissions, and there are solutions at hand to address this. Zero-emission vehicles are available in most weight categories, with more and more models coming to market all the time. CALSTART and member companies celebrated the recent passage of the Infrastructure Bill, which will encourage development and deployment of zero-emission transit and school buses and the charging infrastructure to support them. These vehicles and those deployed globally will help achieve necessary reductions in emissions and aid in curbing the worst impacts of climate change and air quality issues that drive threats to U.S. security and affect the health of our future military members and their families. 

Rapid deployment of clean transportation technologies also bolsters national security by securing future competitiveness in the clean transportation global economy. Nations such as China, South Korea, and Germany are making massive investments in their domestic capabilities to develop and manufacture clean transportation technologies. This includes key components of the zero-emission transportation supply chain such as electric batteries and their core components, semiconductors, and other upstream parts and technologies. CALSTART will continue to advocate for policy proposals to establish component development and manufacturing bases in the United States to ensure independence from foreign technologies as the industry grows.  

The path to significant GHG emissions reduction and the mitigation of climate change clearly runs through clean transportation, with many technologies currently available but needing policy support and market mechanisms to be deployed more broadly and rapidly. In addition to bolstering national security, these investments will secure global influence and competitiveness. It is imperative that the United States continues to invest in national security through the swift and aggressive deployment of zero-emission transportation.