OTF Voices

Massachusetts must take immediate action on climate change by embracing TCI (Viewpoint)

By John Stout

Mass Live, Worcester, Massachusetts

Even while our sea levels rise and our skies grow dark from the intense smoke from climate-change-induced wildfires in the western United States and Canada, Massachusetts is still too reliant on dangerous fossil fuels. This week, global scientists released a landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, warning that the window is closing to end our dependence on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic changes to life as we know it.

One of the most effective ways for Massachusetts to take action on the climate crisis is to make changes to our transportation system, which is now the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), an interstate agreement that would slash climate-harming emissions from gas and diesel-powered vehicles in the Northeast by 26 percent over the next decade, presents a great opportunity to take immediate action on climate change.

Sadly, however, a recent ballot proposal, filed by Rep. David DeCoste and supported by several other members of the commonwealth’s Legislature as well as Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl, seeks to effectively block the state’s participation in TCI.

To reach our state’s climate goals, which call for Massachusetts to stop emitting more carbon than we can remove from the atmosphere by 2050, we need to switch to more sustainable modes of transportation and we need to do it quickly. By ditching our carbon-spewing cars for pollution-free options, like zero-emission vehicles and electrified public transit, along with bicycling and walking, we will create a healthier, more livable, future for ourselves and our children.

Moving forward with the TCI program is a huge opportunity for Massachusetts. Not only would it help us draw down climate-harming emissions by one-quarter of current levels, but a recently released Harvard study found it would also avoid hundreds of deaths each year from air pollution caused by our gas- and diesel-powered vehicles.

In addition to climate and health benefits, TCI would make it cheaper to get around in the long run. 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 more efficient, electrified public transit, would further lower fuel and health costs for everybody in Massachusetts.

The commonwealth’s political leaders need to realize the danger of complacency. If we don’t change course now, the global scientists at the IPCC have made it clear that we should expect deadlier storms, more extreme heat waves and increasing public health problems caused by degraded air quality.

There is no more time to wait: the cost of doing nothing in the face of this growing climate and public health crisis is simply too high. Massachusetts needs to take action on the climate and move forward with the TCI.

John Stout is a transportation advocate with MASSPIRG, a Boston-based citizen-funded organization that advocates for the public interest. He can be reached at [email protected].

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