Good for the climate, health, employment

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Connecticut is letting state residents down on climate action. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, our state is not on track to meet statutory emission reduction goals. The high consumption of fossil fuels, particularly by the transportation sector, is responsible for rapid climate change, impacting the daily lives of Connecticut residents.
Heads of state must reduce emissions in ways that address existing disproportionate pollution loads, improve public health and support economic growth. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is our opportunity to advance these goals.
The 2018 GHG inventory report revealed that emissions from vehicle exhaust are increasing, in contrast to the substantial reductions needed to meet the 2030 and 2050 goals set by the Connecticut General Assembly in the Global Warming Solutions Act. In 2018, Connecticut emitted 42.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The majority of this pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels in the transportation sector, which accounts for 38% of statewide emissions.

TCI is a cap-and-invest scheme aimed at reducing transport pollution modeled on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI has reduced electricity sector emissions by 36% and invested nearly $3 billion in clean energy initiatives for Connecticut and nine other states. TCI would cap emissions from the transport sector, guaranteeing an emissions reduction of at least 26%. At least 50% of auction revenue would be invested in pollution reduction projects for communities overburdened by transportation pollution and underserved by the transportation system. Investments in clean transportation would be guided by an Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council, made up of people from these regions. An advisory board is essential to ensure rural, urban and suburban communities are represented in transportation decisions.
In the American Lung Association’s 2021 State of the Air Report, the majority of Connecticut counties received a failing grade for air quality; Just imagine all the people in our state with asthma struggling to breathe every day when a diesel truck drives by! Communities of color are often burdened with the worst disparities in air quality and health. The report estimates that 1,215,164 people of color suffer from poor air quality in our state; they deserve better. Black children and teens are almost 5.5 times more likely to go to the emergency room because of asthma than white children, while Latino children and teens are 4.5 times more likely. We need TCI to reduce pollutants in the air that disproportionately harm the health of people of color.
In Michael J. Fox’s op-ed op-ed published October 18, 2021, “TCI is the wrong way to cut emissions,” Fox called TCI a “carbon tax,” expressing opposition. to the program’s auction mechanism and offered mandates on automakers as an alternative. The daily impacts of pollution from the fossil fuel industry harm the health of our residents and cost the state far more than this proposed environmental regulation. While a valuable tool, we currently have fuel economy mandates for vehicles and the data shows that alone they have been insufficient to address the issue on the scale needed. We must use all the tools at our disposal to reduce our climate emissions. As our experience with RGGI has shown, cap and invest programs work because they support programs to further reduce fossil fuel use.
TCI would generate up to $89 million annually for clean transportation solutions, which means more jobs for residents. Companies such as Juicebar and Noble Gas have already taken the lead in investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and would surely expand it with TCI’s support. TCI means more electric school buses, cleaner and more reliable transit service, increased investment in complete streets, a more robust broadband network to support telecommuting, and broader access to the benefits of a future of clean transport.
Connecticut needs the Transportation and Climate Initiative to fight climate change, improve public health, and support the economy. I call on the Connecticut General Assembly to reconvene in special session to adopt this policy and advance a future of clean transportation.
Alex Rodriguez is a climate advocate with regional environmental organization Save the Sound.

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