The Baker administration plans to tackle the thorny issue of extracting additional emission reductions from the transportation sector, officials announced at a summit Tuesday where they marked the one-year anniversary of a climate change executive order.
State officials are planning to hold three public listening sessions in the coming months as part of a new effort “to identify regional policies to reduce emissions, develop a comprehensive regional strategy for the deployment of electric vehicles, and discuss strategies to increase the resilience of transportation infrastructure,” the energy and environmental affairs secretariat said.
Environmental groups have been clamoring for a more aggressive state approach to force transportation-related emission reductions, noting the sector is a major source of pollution and asserting that the state risks falling short of meeting legally mandated long-term emission reduction requirements.
Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell, a former Massachusetts environmental protection commissioner, last month called the transportation sector “the largest source of emissions in the region” and urged a greater policy focus in that area. The transportation sector is the single largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, according to DEP, accounting for 40.8 percent of such emissions in 2013. The electric sector is the second largest in Massachusetts, with emissions from homes and businesses accounting for about 21.5 percent of all emissions, according to the DEP.
Overall binding emission reduction targets are set in state law for 2020 and 2050, and the Baker administration also announced Tuesday that it will work to establish an interim emission reduction target for 2030, working with an Implementation Advisory Committee of the Global Warming Solutions Act to study and set that target.
“Today, we recognize the significant progress Massachusetts has made to implement the Order and discuss plans for reducing emissions in the transportation sector, set an emissions reduction target for 2030 under our Global Warming Solutions Act, and launch a suite of new climate change planning tools that will help cities and towns and state government prepare for and adapt to climate change across the commonwealth,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.
Baker made the announcement at a municipal climate summit in Westborough as part of “Climate Week” activities organized to draw attention to the state’s effort to address climate change and prepare for the impacts of extreme weather, such as the hurricanes that just tore through Texas and Florida.
“Our next target for new policies that will lead to further reductions in the transportation sector and we’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and finding solutions,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton.
The governor also announced the release of statewide climate projections developed with assistance from the Northeast Climate Science Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst detailing how temperature and precipitation patterns are projected to change over the next century.
The data, which will be made available to the public on a new website set to launch this fall, will include information on sea level rise and storm surges for the coast and inland river bed flooding risk.
While the Baker administration this week has been highlighting its efforts to mitigate and prepare for climate change effects, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups is gearing up Wednesday to launch a series of lunchtime “stand-ins” at the governor’s office in Boston to urge him to go further.
The group, Mass Power Forward, wants Baker to sign an executive order ending all natural gas infrastructure projects in Massachusetts.
While Baker was at the climate summit, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was leading a meeting with municipal officials where Assistant Secretary of the Environment Daniel Sieger walked through all of the grant and planning assistance opportunities available to them for climate change mitigation, adaptation and resiliency planning.
The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs recently launched a new $1.1 million Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program that sent money to 20 percent of cities and towns to help prepare for the effects of climate change.
“This is real,” Polito said, urging municipal officials to use state programs to “green up.”