Leading environmental, health, scientific and business organizations have applauded the announcement by seven US states and Washington DC of plans to develop a regional policy to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector.
The announcement by the Governors from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia (DC), was made during the Bonn Climate Change Summit (COP 23) currently being held in Germany.
The move was endorsed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) non-profit international environmental advocacy group, Acadia Center, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and five other groups. All of the states in question have years of experience with what is known as the ‘cap-and-invest’ model through the USA’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for power plant emissions. In the eight years since RGGI was launched, carbon pollution from power plants has fallen by 40%, while the program has simultaneously saved consumers money, increased economic growth, created jobs, and improved public health.
One possible path for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states would be to adopt a program similar to RGGI for an upgraded and cleaner transportation system. The cap-and-invest model would provide funding and incentives to:
Accelerate adoption of electric cars, trucks and buses;
Expand public transit and ride sharing;
Build walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented communities accessible to all residents.
These solutions should mean fewer delays, safer travel, reduced health and climate impacts, while simultaneously creating more jobs and a more equitable transportation system that benefits all citizens. It is estimated that a RGGI-like approach would cut transportation climate pollution by 40%, create more than 100,000 new jobs, and put US$14.4bn back into the community; all by 2030.
“The states’ announcement is important, as they have now committed to robust public input on the critical issue of providing a better, cleaner transportation system in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“It appears that one of the options for discussion is a regional cap and invest program covering transportation fuels; this option could help improve our public transportation system, provide more affordable housing near public transit, and speed the transition to electric vehicles.”
Phelps Turner, staff attorney at Conservation Law Foundation, said, “Transportation is the single largest source of climate-disrupting emissions, and with a federal government that refuses to act on climate change, it’s more critical than ever that local leaders step up.”