The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 26th

Editorial: Hillsborough fails to combat climate change through clean transit

<p>Train #77 is depicted awaits passenger boarding and unloading at the Durham Amtrak station on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2019.&nbsp;</p>
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Train #77 is depicted awaits passenger boarding and unloading at the Durham Amtrak station on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2019. 

Most crises are hard to ignore, and the climate crisis is no exception. 

The most notable change in North Carolina is the 70 degree days in the dead of winter. It’s hard to comprehend that the climate crisis is happening here and now. 

Many of us remember being indoctrinated with messages to reduce, reuse and recycle in our youth, empowering ourselves to help reduce our carbon footprints and fight climate change. 

Reducing our individual carbon footprints in 2022, however, is not enough. The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation. The transportation sector generated 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. 

To address transportation pollution, Gov. Roy Cooper kicked off the year with Executive Order 246, which advances the state’s commitment to a clean energy economy and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. He signed the order on Jan. 7. 

Hillsborough’s plans for a new train station were in line with the governor's goal – the station was to be net-zero, meaning it will balance greenhouse gases admitted with those it removes through use.

Unfortunately, on Feb. 15, the Board of Commissioners voted to remove the net-zero goal for the building. 

Commissioner Kathleen Ferguson urged to keep the net-zero plan in place. 

“I feel pretty strongly if we’re not taking action on the net-zero, then we need to just toss our sustainability and energy resolution out the window,” Ferguson said in an interview with ChapelBoro.

Once again, saving money has won over protecting the environment. While keeping the net-zero plan would put the project at a shortfall of $2.5 to 4 million dollars, the concept that the train itself will offset the carbon emissions is a poor justification. 

Taking a train for a medium length distance instead of a car would reduce one’s emissions by around 80 percent, but Hillsborough’s train station project will not be completed until at least 2027. 

Now that the station is no longer net-zero, meaning they will not offset carbon emissions produced during construction, it will take many years for people to use the train itself to offset the carbon from construction. 

The train itself is not net-zero and does produce carbon emissions, increasing the amount of time it would take to offset the initial carbon emission from the station.

The environmental benefit of this project now relies on one thing — time. But time is also the thing that we no longer have. We can no longer afford to put carbon emissions in the atmosphere when we have alternative, environmentally-friendly methods. 

“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at the 2019 Climate Action Summit. 

Guterres was and is still right — we are still losing this race. Choosing to save money because it may offset the emissions, in the long run, is not a luxury that we have anymore. 

It's crucial that Hillsborough’s board of commissioners rethinks their choice and sets the correct precedent of going net-zero for the future. Even if not for the train station, it's the responsibility of the board to find other ways to offset these new emissions in the town of Hillsborough. 

The time to be carbon neutral is now.


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