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FRA’s Rail Industry Climate Challenge

On April 22, 2022, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced its Rail Industry Climate Challenge (Challenge). The agency is asking owners and operators along the national rail network, and manufacturers of rail equipment, to commit to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 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 communities, and help avert the worst effects of climate change. Simultaneously, the Challenge will promote the country's global leadership in innovation and climate protection. 

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

Meeting the Challenge

Reaching net-zero GHG emissions (net-zero) means sourcing all energy from renewable power or employing carbon offset techniques. Net Zero emissions can be achieved by shifting operations to an electric source and utilizing grid-provided 100 percent renewable electricity, utilizing other clean-energy fuels (such as green Hydrogen), or producing renewable energy that covers electrical usage. 

How can the Challenge be met if your organization still expects to utilize some amount of fossil fuel in 2050? 

These Emissions can be offset by: (1) purchasing what are known as offset credits from an accredited source, (2) producing excess renewable energy (e.g., from a right-of-way or rooftop solar field) to offset emissions from fossil fuel use, or (3) employing sequestration techniques such as tree-planting programs or underground sequestration of CO2. 

Having a clear, well supported and documented emissions plan and measurements is key to any reduction program. 

The purpose of the Challenge is centered around the direct energy source used for operations. For example, while reducing upstream emissions from materials used in construction is important, FRA is focused on factors directly under the control of your organization. 

FRA’s Continued Support

While FRA cannot mandate fuel choices in the rail industry, excluding safety concerns and regulations, we are committed to providing research support, funding from appropriate grant and loan programs, reviews of regulations, and outreach efforts to support the transition to GHG-free fuel sources. 

We will continue to partner with other agencies and DOT operating administrations to provide federal resources to the rail industry. 

If your organization has any questions about reaching net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, or suggestions on how FRA can assist in reducing emissions and meeting our Rail Industry Climate Challenge, please contact us.