Three recent steps in Massachusetts show that the Governor Charlie Baker’s administration continues to make progress identifying solutions to pressing climate challenges:
- This week, the Baker administration announced a new commission on the future of transportation. This commission will bring together 18 experts, including UCS President Ken Kimmell, to help address some of the critical challenges facing transportation in Massachusetts. This work is important, as transportation is now the largest source of pollution in the state. Major questions to be addressed include: how we make electric vehicles a mainstream choice for consumers, how we can best manage the transition to automated and shared vehicle fleets, and how we can protect our transportation system from the impacts of climate change. We are excited to play a role in this discussion and look forward to helping the administration think through these critical issues.
- Building on Governor Baker’s 2016 Executive Order establishing a Climate Strategy, yesterday the Baker administration further announced $2 million in new funding for climate adaptation projects. As the dramatic scenes of coastal flooding from Winter Storm Grayson demonstrated, Massachusetts remains vulnerable to coastal flooding, among other impacts. Now, if the legislature follows suit by passing the Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan bill (S.2149), Massachusetts will truly be getting serious about our climate risks.
- Finally, in December the Baker administration launched their Housing Choice initiative, a $10 million fund that will provide grants to cities and towns in the state who meet certain criteria for new housing construction. Solving the housing affordability crisis remains a critical challenge for the Commonwealth. As rents in the metro Boston area increase, low income residents are increasingly left behind or pushed into outer suburbs where they face higher transportation costs and produce greater transportation emissions.
Taken together, these polices demonstrate that the Baker administration remains engaged on many of the critical climate issues facing Massachusetts.
The challenge for the Baker administration and folks in the legislature in 2018 is to figure out how we are going to pay for all of these investments. The housing and adaption challenges facing the Commonwealth will require far greater investments than $10 and $2 million respectively, while building a clean and modern transportation system will require billions in new funding.
One approach would be to build on the cap and invest model of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This policy has successfully cut emissions while raising millions for efficiency and clean energy projects in the electricity sector. A similar approach covering new areas such as transportation fuels could provide the state with over $450 million in dedicated funding for climate projects every year.
This November, Massachusetts was one of seven Northeast states to join in a statement at the Bonn climate talks announcing that they were considering a program modeled after RGGI in the transportation sector. We look forward to working with the Baker administration as they consider this and other approaches to key climate questions over the coming year.