On Tuesday, nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Transportation Climate Initiative – notably not yet including New York – announced that they:
will design a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism.
It’s a major development. Electric sector emissions have dropped substantially in recent years and now account for less than half the GHG emissions resulting from transportation. States with ambitious GHG reduction goals know that transportation is the next area requiring attention.
Although climate watchers are rightly anxious about how long it will take to implement this “RGGI for Transportation” approach, I think that the participating states have actually set themselves a very ambitious agenda. They plan to complete the policy design process within one year – though they don’t commit to having the program in place in one year. Even so, here’s the list that TCI itself has identified for 2019:
- Determine the level at which to cap emissions;
- Develop monitoring and reporting guidelines to ensure that transportation-related emissions decline over time;
- Identify the regulated entities and determine which fuels to include;
- Develop mechanisms for cost containment and compliance flexibility;
- Identify shared priorities for investment of proceeds;
- Establish clear processes and timelines for implementation; and
- Assess ways to foster broader transportation equity across communities.
It’s not going to be easy to accomplish all of this in one year. Kudos to all of the governors who have agreed to try. They’ve got to be thinking about yellow vest protests and, as necessary as we may think this is, it still requires some significant political courage to proceed.
It may be some home-state rooting, but I think that a special shout-out should go to Governor Baker in Massachusetts. At times, he been reasonably criticized for being to cautious and too unwilling to spend any of his substantial political capital. Nonetheless, there are signs, of which this TCI announcement is only the most recent, that Governor Baker is looking to accomplish more in his second term and may in fact be looking to establish a meaningful climate legacy. If so, then he’ll really deserve our congratulations – I know that many people will be watching to make sure that he really delivers!