Another American carbon pricing plan has died.
The Transportation and Climate Initiative – a cap-and-trade program for automobiles in three northeastern states and the District of Columbia – was abandoned last week after Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (D) and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R ) pulled the plug on the program.
The announcement marks the latest setback to carbon pricing plans in the United States, and questions how policymakers in the Northeast plan to tackle emissions from transport, by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the region.
“It wasn’t my favorite idea because I didn’t like making Massachusetts decisions as hostages to other states,” said Senator Michael Barrett, a Democrat and leading climate hawk from Massachusetts on Beacon Hill. “My worst fears have come true. It was effectively canceled by the governors of other states. “
The plan had been in trouble for months. A dozen states and DC spent years drawing up the plan, but only Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and DC signed when it was unveiled late last year. Lamont in particular faced challenges in gaining support for the idea in Connecticut.
“Look, I didn’t hold out when gasoline prices were at an all-time low,” Lamont told reporters in Connecticut. “I think the legislature is pretty clear: it’ll be a tough nut to crack when gas prices are this high, so no.”
Baker was the program’s loudest champion, but a governor’s spokesman said it made little sense for Massachusetts to proceed with so little regional support.
“The Baker Polito Administration has always maintained that the Commonwealth would only move forward with TCI if multiple states commit, and since this does not exist, the Traffic Climate Initiative is no longer the best solution to the Commonwealth’s transport and environmental needs.” Terry MacCormack, the governor’s press secretary said in a statement.
The TCI collapse comes amid a dramatic change in carbon pricing policy. Many conservatives have long rejected the idea, arguing that carbon pricing will increase energy costs. But support for CO2 pricing is also falling among the climate hawks. In Washington State, two voting initiatives on CO2 pricing have failed in recent years. And this year, CO2 pricing did not gain any serious momentum in the congress negotiations on a massive climate law.
TCI was modeled on one of the only existing carbon pricing plans in the country, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program for power plants. Proponents said it would cut perspiration emissions by a quarter while raising more than $ 3 billion to invest in clean transportation (Climate wire, December 22nd, 2020). However, critics concerned about costs and environmental justice met with skepticism; They expressed concern that doing so would do little to reduce pollution in colored communities.
Its failure raises big questions about how the northeastern states plan to tackle tailpipe emissions. In Massachusetts, traffic is responsible for 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, outperforming emissions from buildings (27 percent) and electricity (19 percent).
Connecticut’s traffic emissions are more than double the next largest sources – buildings and electricity – combined.
Alli Gold Roberts, director of state policies at Ceres, said selling lawmakers through a complicated regulatory program at a time when states are waiting for a massive inflow of federal dollars has proven a deadly combination for TCI.
Massachusetts officials expect the state to receive approximately $ 10 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure package, and federal clean transportation funding will give a big boost to state efforts to combat tailpipe emissions, Gold Roberts said.
Nevertheless, she found that the federal government’s funds come without an express promise of emission reductions.
“I think they need to get creative to confidently set specific destinations for transportation,” said Gold Roberts. “You have to find out other tools in the toolbox. The urgency of the moment demands that they proceed in a different way. “
Barrett and Senator Marc Pacheco, another leading Massachusetts climate hawk, said it was time for the Commonwealth to consider joining California’s economy-wide cap-and-trade program. A Massachusetts climate law passed earlier this year requires the state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and put in place an emissions reduction plan for the next three years by June.
Massachusetts wouldn’t be the only state considering joining California. Washington State passed law earlier this year paving the way for Quebec to join the Golden State’s program (Climate wire, April 27th).
“It’s a huge market in the west,” said Pacheco. “There is potential to continue this carbon market.”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.