Local businesses fundamentally understand the true cost of climate inaction, and are calling for legislation in 2020 to put a price on carbon pollution in Massachusetts.
With unprecedentedly high winter temperatures hitting New England this weekend, we are reminded of what is to come in terms of temperature shifts in the face of the climate crisis. Not only is it alarming in the long term, but high temperatures in the winter, paired with coastal impacts from extreme weather have already caused important and measurable economic impacts to the Commonwealth.
Businesses understand the climate risks and associated costs to the economic vitality and wellbeing of their state and region more broadly, and are looking for leadership in the Massachusetts State House. A letter signed by over 150 businesses from 57 communities across the state was sent to legislators asking that they move quickly to take action on climate change by supporting pending legislation that would price carbon as pollution.
The announcement comes less than a week before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy is set to hear testimony on key bills that lay out a vision for how Massachusetts can achieve economy-wide carbon pricing. It also comes a month after Governor Baker formally announced his intention to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional carbon pricing program focusing on transportation fuels.
“We have an opportunity to reduce emissions, while also supporting the Commonwealth’s economic development and lifting up our residents” said Larry O’Toole, CEO and Owner of Gentle Giant Moving Company and a signatory of the letter, in an op-ed last year. “What motivates me most in supporting carbon pricing is not just its benefits to our environment or our economy, but how it also gives my employees a leg up.”
Putting a price on carbon is also a good policy for businesses — as made clear by the widespread support it has among the private sector — because it gives them the freedom to choose if and how they reduce their carbon consumption, acting as a safeguard for business competitiveness and flexibility.
The economic opportunity of putting a price on carbon pollution is immense. Massachusetts currently imports all of the fossil fuels we use, therefore incentivizing and eventually making the switch over to renewable, locally-produced sources of energy would keep billions of dollars (per year) in our state economy — creating jobs, economic vitality, and huge investments into public goods.
“Under current policies we will fall far short of our 2050 emissions reduction mandate, and most greenhouse gas emissions now come from outside the electricity sector, especially from transportation,” said economist Marc Breslow, Policy and Research Director of Climate XChange. Breslow was the lead author of the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. “Extending carbon pricing economy-wide is the most effective, efficient, and fair way to make up the shortfall, to reduce emissions and strengthen the economy.”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) already places a cap on emissions from the electric sector in Massachusetts (and nine other states in the region). If TCI were to be implemented as well, it would also set a price on pollution from the transportation sector. That still leaves part of the economy’s emissions not covered by a carbon price, meaning more action is needed to reduce emissions in other sectors of the economy in order to fully transition towards a 100% clean economy. Acting on climate change today will protect the competitive positions of our businesses and lower operating costs.
Two different carbon bills filed this session, one in the House and one in the Senate (H.2810 & S.1924), together gained the support of well over 60 percent of lawmakers in each chamber — the most of any energy or climate legislation this session. Both would set a price on carbon pollution economy-wide in the state (exempting the electric sector, which would continue to be covered by RGGI). Although the specific pathways of these two bills is uncertain, a forthcoming climate bill in the Senate is shaping up to be a strong vehicle for carbon pricing this session.
The pending legislation could generate up to $14 billion for the state, which would be reinvested into clean energy investments, heating assistance programs, and key infrastructure projects that will further prepare the state for future climate impacts — all which promote job creation, local economic development, and equitable outcomes for frontline and environmental justice communities. The bills also provide economic incentives for individuals and industry alike to favor cleaner forms of energy and eventually move the state away from imported fossil fuels.
Our state has an opportunity to not only lead the nation on progressive climate policy that can begin tackling the immediate and pressing environmental crisis, but also work to preserve the economic vitality of our state, create jobs, and generate much-needed investments in public goods like transportation infrastructure. In the clean economy of the future, Massachusetts can have a leg up by implementing carbon pricing. Businesses recognize this and are demanding our legislators take action now.