Transportation and Climate Initiative
The Transportation and Climate Initiative is a coordinated effort by a group of U.S. states to reduce transportation pollution, which accounts for over 40% of CO2 emissions in the Northeast. Since 2017 this group of 13 states—stretching from Maine to North Carolina—and Washington, D.C. have been working together to develop a cap-and-invest program that would reduce pollution from transportation fuels while generating funds to invest in clean, modern, and equitable transportation solutions. In December 2020, four TCI members (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington DC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), outlining key program details and committing them to action. In a separate document, the four MOU signatories were joined by eight other TCI member states to assert that they are collaborating on the next steps of the cap-and-invest program’s development, suggesting that the program will expand beyond southern New England and D.C. All together, these jurisdictions would represent the world’s third largest economy.
The TCI cap-and-invest program is part of a broader effort to address interconnected challenges of climate change, toxic tailpipe emissions, lack of funding for necessary transportation investments, and inequitable access to affordable, reliable mobility options. As part of this campaign, Acadia Center is working with partners to build support for wide-ranging policies aligned with reducing transportation pollution and delivering equitable outcomes. Both the campaign and the policy outcome must elevate climate ambition while delivering improved outcomes for communities suffering from environmental injustice and underinvestment.
Regional Coordination. Since the spring of 2017, Acadia Center has helped convene and organize the regional network of TCI advocates, a growing group that now includes over 200 organizations representing a broad array of perspectives across all the TCI states. We have worked closely with regional partners to develop advocacy workplans, calls to action, detailed policy recommendations, a campaign website (Our Transportation Future), and educational conferences and webinars.
Key State Coalitions and Actions. Acadia Center has been active in establishing and co-convening state “tables” that can shape TCI outcomes through collaborative, well-organized advocacy in key states that are members of the TCI effort. Working in partnership with Transportation for Massachusetts and the Green Justice Coalition, Acadia Center launched the MA TCI Table in early 2019. This effort has created a space for unlikely partners to work together to advance an equitable TCI design and advance a broader vision for a just and sustainable transportation future. The MA TCI Table conveners have partnered with MA state agencies to host “Transportation and Climate Community Engagement Workshops” and launched an Equitable Investment Subcommittee to facilitate deep-dive discussions and strategy and policy to ensure equitable outcomes. The MA TCI Table has been serving as a model for advocacy and inclusive engagement in other TCI states. Similar efforts have taken root across the region, including in Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island, where Acadia Center state-leads serve in leadership roles.
These state-focused tables provide the necessary forums for TCI advocates to work closely with community-based organizations to discuss state-specific transportation challenges and solutions. Through these discussions, Acadia Center and our partners can craft policy recommendations designed to meet local needs.
Shaping the Public Narrative. In addition to coalition building and direct engagement with state agencies, Acadia Center has worked to shape the public narrative around TCI through op-eds, press engagement and public events. Following the major announcements from TCI states in December 2018, December 2019, and then again in December 2020, Acadia Center has helped frame the developments in articles from Scientific American, Inside Climate News, The New York Times, and more, making it clear that the TCI program offers a major opportunity for climate action and transportation investment, and that the states must commit to an inclusive process and equitable policy to realize that potential. Acadia Center’s economic and research reports have been featured in the media, spreading helpful data points about TCI’s potential to improve the transportation sector and strengthen the economy.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pronounced “Reggie”) was the nation’s first cap-and-trade program, capping emissions and forcing power plants to pay for units of pollution under the cap. Through RGGI, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the program have achieved significant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and lowered other dangerous air pollutants from the electric power sector. When RGGI was implemented, it was the first program in the world to require polluters to pay for emissions allowances (permits to emit pollution).
Since the program went into effect in 2009, CO2 emissions from power plants in RGGI states have fallen by 47%, outpacing the rest of the country by 90%. Meanwhile, RGGI states have generated $3.2 billion from the sale of emissions allowances, the majority of which has been invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Consumers also benefit: electricity prices in RGGI states have fallen by 5.7%, as prices have increased in the rest of the country by 8.6%. Following RGGI’s lead, there are 57 national or subnational carbon pricing programs in place, many of them drawing on lessons learned from RGGI.
Acadia Center has been deeply engaged in RGGI’s development, strengthening, and expansion over the last 15 years. From the program’s initial design process to periodic RGGI Program Reviews, Acadia Center has been a voice for climate ambition, has provided analysis to influence policy decisions, and has convened a regional network of RGGI advocates. As the states prepare for the 2021 RGGI Program Review, Acadia Center will be working to ensure the program is designed to meet the urgency of the climate crisis while delivering clean air and affordable, clean energy to every community.