OTF Voices

CT can still take action on the climate crisis, but decision makers must act now

By John Stout and Chris Phelps

Greenwich Time, Norwalk, Connecticut

Global warming is the most important challenge of our time. If we continue on our current course, we will see more dangerous heat waves, deadlier storms and increasing public health issues due to degraded air quality.

One of the quickest ways we can take action on the climate crisis is to reduce the pollution we generate from our transportation system, now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, both in Connecticut and in our country. By switching to more sustainable modes of transportation, like electric vehicles, public transit and bicycling, we can create a livable future for our kids and for generations to come.

Fortunately, a plan already exists to do just this: the Transportation and Climate Initiative, or TCI. The northeastern, multistate TCI is a climate change-fighting interstate agreement designed to slash the region’s greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Not only would this program reduce climate-harming emissions by one-third of current levels, it would also save the lives of hundreds of Connecticut residents cut short each year due to air pollution.

In addition to producing much-needed climate and health benefits, TCI will also create cheaper transportation options that put money back into local residents’ pockets. Electric vehicles are less expensive to own and require less servicing than combustion engine cars over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime. Incentivizing the construction of more sustainable transportation infrastructure, such as improved sidewalks, expanded bike lanes and electrified public transit will give people even more clean, healthy and affordable options for getting around.

Last month, the Connecticut General Assembly had the opportunity to adopt legislation that would have allowed the state to join TCI, but unfortunately chose not to bring it up for a vote. While this decision was disappointing, this is by no means the end of the road for TCI, as many have falsely claimed.

Connecticut has up until the end of 2023 to officially join the program, which is fortunate given the growing body of data showing that fossil fuel-powered motor vehicles are terrible for public health. In a dark twist of irony, the Connecticut Legislature’s decision coincided with the release of a Harvard study that found pollution from fossil-fuel powered vehicles cut short 7,000 lives in the Northeast in 2016.

Connecticut’s political leadership needs to recognize that the cost of doing nothing in the face of the looming climate and public health crises is simply too high. TCI is a key opportunity for Connecticut, and the rest of the Northeast, to simultaneously fight climate change by capping pollution from the transportation sector and also saving lives by improving air quality. We need to make sure our legislators take note.

John Stout is transportation advocate for U.S. PIRG. Chris Phelps directs legislative and administrative policy advocacy campaigns for Environment Connecticut.


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