A new report released by the Baker administration demonstrates the need for Massachusetts to implement much more ambitious policies to reduce pollution coming from transportation.
Yesterday, the Baker administration released the latest 5-year update to the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan. This is an important document that is meant to track the state’s progress to achieve our statewide global warming emissions limits. Massachusetts’ global warming law requires the state to cut our emissions to 25% of 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% reductions by 2050.
The report shows that the state has made major progress in reducing emissions from electricity, significant progress in reducing emissions from heating our buildings, and no progress at all in transportation. In fact, transportation emissions were higher in 2013 than 1990:
With gas under $2 per gallon and SUV sales up, it is safe to assume that transportation sector emissions were higher in 2015 then they were in 2013 – and that emissions will continue to climb in 2016 as well. Eight years after the state passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, we have yet to even stabilize emissions in the transportation sector, much less begun to make the cuts that are necessary to achieve the state’s climate goals.
One reason that the state is making so much more progress in electricity than we are in transportation is because through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the state has created a market-based policy to cap emissions in the electric sector. We haven’t done anything comparable in transportation. So if you are an electric utility, you currently have to purchase a permit from the state for every metric ton of pollution you emit, and that money goes to reduce energy costs for consumers. But if you are a transportation fuel distributor, you don’t have to purchase any permits at all – you are allowed to pollute for free.
5 Governors in the Northeast region recently announced that they are going to explore a program modeled after RGGI in the transportation sector. Analysis shows that such a program, when combined with additional policies such as a Clean Fuel Standard, could reduce transportation-sector emissions by up to 40% by 2030, while creating over 90,000 jobs in the region and saving consumers $72 billion.
Charlie Baker wasn’t one of the five Governors, but it’s not too late to join the conversation. The Baker administration states in this report that “[t]he importance of reducing emissions from transportation—now the largest emissions sector—is recognized and a priority for the Administration.”
I hope so. It’s clear from the report that administration officials have a broad understanding of the steps are necessary to achieve transportation sector emissions reductions: promoting new technologies such as plug in vehicles, increasing investments in public transportation, creating policies to encourage smart growth, walking and biking. What is less clear is whether and how the administration intends to find the resources necessary to scale up these solutions to a level where transportation emissions will stop going up and start going down.
Daniel Gatti is Executive Director of Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters (MLEV) and a consultant to the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, which advocates for smart carbon pricing policies in MA. You can follow me on twitter @danielsgatti or @massenvirovoter. And while you’re at it like us on facebook too.