Numerous news stories have documented how the pandemic and resulting economic crisis have reduced air pollution around the world , bringing emissions down globally by 17%. As Americans have been forced to shelter in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, the air around us has become noticeably cleaner and climate pollution has fallen. While no one would seek to lower emissions in this way, a recent article in the Boston Globe explored the extent of the pandemic-induced pollution reduction while highlighting opportunities to rebuild a cleaner, more equitable economy.
“[E]missions from cars, trucks, and airplanes have declined in metropolitan Boston by about 30 percent, while overall carbon emissions have fallen by an estimated 15 percent,” writes David Abel, the author of the article. That level of pollution reduction is unprecedented but offers a challenge to better envision and implement an economic recovery pathway that delivers a just transition to a sustainable future.
That’s why Acadia Center is pushing harder than ever for policies that will make that transition possible. One of the efforts discussed in the article is the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI). Through TCI, 11 states from Maine to Virginia are working to develop a regional program to reduce vehicle pollution and spur investment in a cleaner, modern, more equitable transportation future. In the Boston Globe, Acadia Center’s Jordan Stutt described it as “a public health program and an economic stimulus program wrapped in one.” The program would generate billions of dollars each year for investment in transportation infrastructure, helping the local workforce rebound while delivering better transportation options and cleaner air to communities across the region.
Acadia Center has long championed the point – supported by data and research — that well-designed efforts to reduce climate pollution provide many benefits for all citizens: improved public health, greater economic opportunity, safer, more efficient buildings, lower energy bills, and more accessible, less-polluting ways to get around. Those benefits are more important now than ever before, particularly in the communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Those communities must be front of mind and at the head of the table as we look to build a resilient, sustainable economy. Acadia Center is committed to doing the research, providing the data and making the case for the large-scale reforms and investment in a cleaner future that will improve the quality of life, health and economies of this region.
Speaking on behalf of OTF, Jordan Stutt, carbon program director, Acadia Center said: “For elected officials who have been waiting on the close of the comment period to gauge public sentiment, the outcome could not be clearer: Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Americans want to fix our dirty and broken transportation system. No amount of oil industry-funded propaganda will change the fact that there is overwhelming public support for the important goals of the Transportation & Climate Initiative. It’s a big hit.”
Read the full press release from Our Transportation Future here.
January is a great time to start fresh. Whether it’s signing up for a new gym membership or cutting back on social media, the New Year is an opportunity to envision a better future and eliminate bad habits. And the Northeast has one that can’t be ignored for another year: an ongoing, dangerous reliance on fossil fuels. In 2020, Acadia Center’s resolution is to help the region break up with dirty energy.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) served up a harsh reality check: the world has until just 2030 to act to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. In the Northeast, we risk severe storms, declining public health, the destruction of our scenic coastline, and upheaval in important regional industries like farming, fishing, and tourism. Fossil fuels are like smoking: hard to quit, but unmistakably bad for you. The IPCC report makes it abundantly clear that it’s time to quit.
Acadia Center is committed to Making the Next Decade Count—using the next ten years to advance ambitious climate policy that will transition the region to a stronger, cleaner, more just energy economy. The good news is that states around the region have set unambiguous climate pollution reduction goals, and there are policies and programs available to meet them. These solutions can also improve public health and strengthen the economy for the future by keeping our dollars in the region instead of flowing to other states and countries. Even better, if designed conscientiously, these policies and programs can also address the financial and health disparities between our communities that the fossil fuel economy has exacerbated.
Acadia Center recommends that each Northeast state embrace these three bold but achievable actions in 2020 to make real progress on its climate pollution reduction goals:
1. Require that state agencies assess the long-term climate impact of their decisions. Empowering state agencies to act in ways that support state climate goals will unify the agencies that regulate utilities, transportation, buildings, and more in addressing the defining challenge of our time. For example, public utilities commissions might begin to reject fossil fuel energy projects in favor of clean energy options like solar and wind. New York has taken steps to do this in its 2019 Climate Change and Protection Act, and other states should follow their lead, with specific and immediate deadlines for action.
2. Phase out fossil fuels, including gas. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. It consists primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas at least twelve times more potent than carbon dioxide. It leaks out of poorly maintained pipeline networks, creating safety hazards and more emissions. It releases carbon dioxide and other harmful gases when burned. And as this region knows all too well, it can explode—with dire consequences. Fortunately, the Northeast has economically beneficial alternatives that can replace fossil fuels now, including efficient electric heating systems and real potential for a significant amount of offshore wind energy. The region must immediately halt the expansion of gas infrastructure—including power plants and pipelines—that consumers will be paying for decades from now and start embracing better alternatives.
3. Implement the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI). The transportation sector is our region’s largest single source of emissions. This regional policy will reduce transportation emissions while raising revenue for states to invest in cleaner, more equitable transportation solutions, such as public transit, walking and bicycling, and vehicle electrification. TCI is the most effective way to address the climate impacts, health repercussions, and horrendous traffic congestion of our transportation system. It should be designed to provide real alternatives for those most adversely impacted by our past transportation decisions: communities of color, lower-income communities, and rural communities.
Now is the time for states to move forward on these bold solutions. Like any transformational goal, the path to success will require discipline and persistence. But as the IPCC report makes clear, the Northeast must lead the way toward a cleaner, healthier, more just, and more vibrant economy. Acadia Center will be working to make this future a reality. Will you join us?
The Transportation and Climate Initiative will deliver economic, health and environmental benefits.
As Mainers take to the roads, skies and tracks for the holidays, ‘tis the season to contemplate resolutions for the New Year and beyond. While most envision exercising more, quitting smoking or spending more time with loved ones, Gov. Mills, the Maine Legislature and the Maine Climate Council are grappling with how to reduce the state’s climate pollution and transportation costs in an economical, efficient and equitable manner.
Read the full article from the Portland Press Herald here.
TCI Announcement Demonstrates Benefits of Transition to Clean Transportation, Highlights Need for Strong Program
BOSTON — Today, 12 states and the District of Columbia announced the details of a new, regional program to cut tailpipe pollution while delivering much needed investment in clean, equitable, modern transportation options. Working together through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), these jurisdictions have developed a multi-state cap-and-invest program to address rising transportation emissions and the need for greater investment in a clean transportation future.
Launching this program will be a major accomplishment at a substantial scale: the TCI region, were it a single country, would represent the world’s third largest economy.
“States are leading the way with subnational action on climate,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center’s President. “By working together, this region can achieve globally significant carbon reductions while delivering billions of dollars each year for grants and investments to help every community thrive. From rural towns to the region’s biggest cities, TCI can fund investments to make better transportation options more accessible, affordable, and reliable.”
Along with the policy details in the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the TCI jurisdictions released modeling results demonstrating that regional action to reduce transportation pollution will deliver economic, health, and environmental benefits. Under the most ambitious policy analyzed, the region would see the following impacts in 2032:
A 25% reduction in CO2 emissions from vehicles (from 2022 levels);
Nearly $7 billion in proceeds for investment in clean, equitable transportation solutions; and
$10 billion in health savings from reduced tailpipe pollution in 2032 alone.
The modeling makes it clear that launching a TCI program will be a tremendous step forward if the participating jurisdictions implement an ambitious emissions cap. As the modeling shows, each increasingly more ambitious policy scenario delivers greater health savings and more resources for clean, equitable transportation investment.
Given these findings, the TCI states should establish a cap that declines by at least 25% from 2022 to 2032, if not more. Of the policy scenarios analyzed, the 25% cap comes closest to ensuring the necessary cuts in transportation pollution to meet state economy-wide climate requirements. While the 25% cap would represent progress, the TCI jurisdictions have an opportunity to chart an even bolder path; a more ambitious emissions cap will ensure that participating states meet their climate requirements while delivering greater health savings and enabling more transformational investments. Those investments in public transit, electric vehicles, active mobility, and other clean transportation projects will provide greater access to the clean, affordable, reliable transportation options that this region needs.
The importance of strategic investment has been demonstrated through the region’s experience with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The investment of over $3 billion in RGGI auction proceeds has helped participating states become national leaders on energy efficiency while creating high quality, local jobs. Those RGGI-funded investments have contributed to the fact that electricity prices in the RGGI states have declined since the program launched, while prices have increased in the rest of the country.
Through TCI, states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can build on RGGI’s success while improving the model. Investments funded by TCI must be dedicated to reducing pollution and delivering a more equitable transportation system, and complementary policies will be essential to the rapid and just transition to a clean transportation future.
“Investment in better transportation options while reducing tailpipe pollution is a winning combination,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director. “Acadia Center applauds the TCI jurisdictions for developing this program, and we call on every participating Governor to ensure that the program is both robust and equitable; the program’s success will be determined by their ambition.”
 The TCI jurisdictions are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
When National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Secretary Elaine Chao and acting Environmental Protection Administration Secretary Andrew Wheeler announced their agencies’ rollback of federal clean car standards in August, they pledged to “ Make Cars Great Again.” In doing so, they have threatened our air, water and public health — and will increase costs for consumers.
Peter Shattuck, director of the Clean Energy Initiative at the Acadia Center, calls the agreement a major victory for bipartisan action to address climate change.
“This shows that northeast states are stepping up to fill the void left by the Trump administration’s irresponsible and misguided efforts to roll back every major environmental protection on the books,” he states.
RGGI estimates that extending the cap will bring carbon emissions in the region down 65 percent from 2009 levels. The Trump administration argues that environmental regulations hinder industrial development and economic growth.
The nine RGGI states together comprise the sixth-largest economy in the world, and Shattuck says RGGI’s record of pollution reduction and economic growth proves that the cooperative’s approach to fighting climate change can work.
“It puts a price on pollution, which unleashes innovative ways to avoid that pollution,” he points out. “And that’s what we’ve seen from RGGI and other market-based programs.”
But he cautions that the even these further carbon reductions by RGGI aren’t enough to slow global climate change. Shattuck says more states need to join in the effort, and move beyond RGGI’s mission of cutting power-plant pollution.
“This step helps clean up the electric sector, but we’re also going to need to tackle transportation, which is the largest source of climate pollution in the region and now, the country as a whole,” he stresses.
Read the full story from Public News Service here.