FRA set Climate Challenge to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

The Federal Railroad Administration is asking operators and manufacturers to join their commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

net zero 2050 FRA

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has announced its rail industry Climate Challenge. The agency is asking owners and operators along the United States rail network, and manufacturers of rail equipment, to join FRA’s commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the rail industry and rail transportation by 2050. Achieving this target will contribute to FRA’s key goals of building a safe, efficient, and modern transportation system that will expand economic opportunities, create cleaner and safer communities, and help avert the worst effects of climate change. Simultaneously, FRA’s Climate Challenge will promote the country’s global leadership in innovation and climate protection.

“The FRA commits to supporting innovation in the rail industry to keep rail one of the most sustainable transportation choices,” Amit Bose, Administrator of the FRA, said. “Together, we will expand access to passenger and rail freight, ensure that they are powered by environmentally-friendly technologies, and eliminate emissions across the rail supply chain.”

Rail freight is up to 75 per cent more efficient than truck transportation, while passenger rail is up to 46 per cent more efficient than driving and 34 per cent more efficient than flying. FRA’s Climate Challenge builds on the strengths of rail transportation by encouraging the rail industry to decarbonise their operations, which will ensure that rail continues to be a model of sustainability and resiliency well into the future. FRA will highlight those companies that meet or beat its challenge and support the reduction of transportation emissions by expanding access to rail transport and partnering with the rail industry in the research and development of renewable energy sources.

In order to leverage every opportunity to combat climate change, FRA is also announcing its partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) SmartWay programme. SmartWay emphasises supply chain sustainability by helping freight transportation companies measure, benchmark, and improve their energy efficiency.

Over the past two decades, FRA has also worked extensively with its industry partners to research and develop clean energy sources for rail transportation. These continuing efforts will provide the rail industry with multiple avenues to offset or eliminate climate-changing emissions by 2050. For example, FRA has previously partnered with Amtrak to develop biodiesel fuels for locomotives and has funded programmes dedicated to battery and electrification technologies. The agency is also conducting ongoing research on the feasibility of hydrogen fuel cells as alternatives to diesel use.

The Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law further advances FRA and the rail industry’s ability to meet ambitious climate goals through funding projects that can reduce transportation and rail GHG emissions. The legislation is a 500 per cent increase over recent funding levels for rail. Much of this funding will be dedicated to expanding passenger rail access and improving the rail freight network through FRA’s competitive discretionary grant programmes, enabling modal shift away from less energy efficient modes of travel.