States Eye Cap-and-Invest Transportation Policy to Reduce Emissions

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Savings would be spent on public transit and zero-emission vehicles.

A coalition of nine states and Washington, D.C. plan to design a cap-and-invest program for reducing vehicle carbon emissions by the end of 2019.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative began in 2010 with the goal of mitigating the impacts of climate change. Its early work focused on using federal grant funding to build out a regional electric vehicle network in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Vehicle emissions account for the majority of those regions’ pollution.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report that found limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—so as to avoid more extreme weather, diminishing Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, and the irreversible loss of some ecosystems—requires “rapid and far-reaching” transitions by industry and governments.

After holding six regional listening sessions throughout 2018, TCI announced Tuesday its intent to establish a market-based, low-carbon transportation policy, the proceeds from which will be reinvested in public transit and zero-emission vehicles among other solutions.

“With approximately 40 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions coming from the transportation sector, we must accelerate our transition to a low-carbon transportation future,” said Rob Kleen, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protections, in the announcement. “By signing onto the TCI commitment, Connecticut and the region are taking an important step forward to help protect the health and safety of our residents.”

TCI jurisdictions will decide whether to implement the policy individually once it’s finalized. All are in agreement whatever program they develop must meet emissions goals, create jobs, spread costs evenly, boost resilience, and be transparent.

Next steps include: setting the emissions cap, laying out monitoring and reporting guidelines, and picking the fuels to be regulated. Only then can TCI add mechanisms to contain costs, identify shared priorities for spending the proceeds, assess equity and make a timeline.

Officials said they would make public engagement—particularly of underserved communities, fuel providers and businesses—a priority throughout the process.

“Cleaner, more efficient transportation options are good for consumers, saving money and reducing the impact of gas prices on American families,” said Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, in a statement. “The [federation] supports this important effort to increase the availability of fuel efficient vehicles and other clean transportation options.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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