Governor Baker laid out an ambitious goal of becoming a net zero state by 2050. The Massachusetts Senate adopted significant legislation to enact the measures needed to achieve the 2050 goals and to help the state adjust to the climate change that is already baked into the system. The House needs to follow suit and a reconciliation of the differing approaches to achieving the same goals has to be worked out before the end of the legislative session on July 31. A lot remains to be done, but it is encouraging to live in a state that is having a grown-up conversation about what needs to be accomplished.

The governor put himself out there not just with the 2050 net zero goal but by also supporting the Transportation Carbon Initiative (TCI), a multi-state initiative to create a cap and trade system to lower the carbon footprint of the transportation sector. Transportation accounts for 40 percent of the carbon emissions in Massachusetts and no reasonable carbon reduction goal can be met without knocking this number down. TCI achieves its goals using a system of allowances to put a price on the carbon intensity of fuels as well as through a combination of reducing emission credits over time and the utilization of funds generated through the sale of credits to invest back into alternative energy. TCI is a market-based system that already works in the utility sector. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) already functions effectively in this region to reduce the carbon footprint of our power grid and funds alternative energy and conservation. You, Massachusetts and the world already benefit from this proven approach and will do so under TCI.

The TCI is not the same as a gas tax, although a lot of people are already screaming into the wind that it is. TCI fees are avoidable, and that’s the point, by reducing the carbon intensity of the fuel used. The success of TCI will result on its elimination, and that is ultimately the thing. But the old battle lines are being drawn by those who apparently are willing to shoulder the enormous, but diffuse and socialized, costs of unchecked climate change (health care costs, loss of infrastructure, loss of property, higher insurance cost, dislocation and disruption of food supplies and general human misery, to name a few) but cannot bear to overtly pay the actual cost of carbon associated with their daily consumption. We are already paying, it’s just that what we pay now is contributing to our destruction. Why not try something different for a change and invest in our future?