Baker: Net-zero emissions by 2050
Says he will give T $135m more in operating funds
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER set a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in his State of the State address Tuesday night, and promised to achieve that ambitious target with a regional transportation climate initiative that is facing pushback in neighboring states and a series of measures that have so far seen little movement in the Legislature.
Under current state law, the state uses 1990 emission levels as a benchmark. The current goals are to reduce emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by this year and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Baker is now calling for zero net emissions by 2050, a target that would likely require an overhaul of the state’s economy and a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels, particularly in the transportation sector.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have been on the rise for decades and now represent 40 percent of this state’s total emissions,” Baker said. “Unless we take on transportation, we won’t meet our objectives.”
The governor’s new target puts him in league with one of the most aggressive climate change advocates on Beacon Hill, Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton, who has filed legislation setting the same target and expects that target to be included in an upcoming Senate climate change bill. Once that target is fixed in law, Pacheco said, “it will be the most aggressive piece of legislation in the country, but for California.”
“It’s a critical part in expanding public transportation, transforming our highways, and reducing congestion,” the governor said.
Baker is leading the multistate transportation climate initiative, but he is facing pushback from his counterparts in nearby states. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has already declared his state out of the regional compact because of the expected hike in gasoline prices, and the governors of Vermont and Connecticut have raised similar concerns.
Baker Tuesday night chose not to address the elephant in the room – whether the state needs significantly more transportation revenues. The House is currently preparing to take up a transportation bill and the Senate seems likely to go along in some fashion.
Instead, Baker recounted the progress his administration has made since 2015 in boosting funding for the MBTA, getting the Green Line extension back on track, and beginning construction of commuter rail service to New Bedford and Fall River. He urged the Legislature to pass his transportation bond bill and legislation requiring ride-hailing companies to turn over more information on how their services are used.
Baker did acknowledge that the T needs more operating funds in the fiscal year that begins in July. He said his budget proposal will include an increase of $135 million for the T, primarily to address recommendations made by an independent safety panel and to “accelerate service improvements.”Aside from the boost in the T’s operating budget, Baker indicated the Legislature didn’t have to do anything else but approve the measures he has already filed. “The sooner we have access to both the tools and the funding, the sooner we can make our transportation system safer, better, and more reliable,” he said.
Legislative leaders, emerging from the House chamber after Baker’s speech, didn’t seem to buy his steady-as-she-goes approach. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said his leadership team is moving ahead with developing a revenue package for transporation. “We think we need a dedicated revenue stream, not only for the T but for roads and bridges and RTAs [regional transit authorities] and projects throughout the Commonwealth,” DeLeo said. “We’re still going to move forward with our legislation.”