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Chairman: Delaying transportation emissions pact a mistake

With global emissions in decline due to the coronavirus pandemic, the chairman of the Massachusetts Senate’s Global Warming and Climate Change Committee criticized a decision last week by a coalition of East Coast states to postpone until the fall a plan to cap vehicle fuel emissions.

Senator Marc Pacheco, the longest-serving member of the state Senate, suggested the COVID-19 pandemic should be seen as an opportunity, not an obstacle to moving forward with the Transportation Climate Initiative, which until the COVID-19 outbreak had been had been a centerpiece of the policy agenda on Beacon Hill.

TCI was also a central component of Governor Charlie Baker’s commitment to move Massachusetts toward net-zero emissions, which was finalized during the pandemic.


The Transportation and Climate Initiative is a coalition of East Coast states working to develop a cap-and-trade program for fuel emissions. The group said last week that it would postpone the release of a final memorandum of understanding from the spring to the fall. That memorandum will lay out the rules of a cap-and-trade program for states to agree to, and could seek to reduce car and truck emissions by 25 percent.

The effort is being chaired by Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, and the coalition said the delay was the result of the intense focus governors have had to put into their own coronavirus response planning.

“We all understand that COVID-19 presents immense challenges that the Commonwealth’s health care system and health officials are fighting day and night to overcome. We also understand that the ongoing pandemic is a crisis with a scope of disruption that extends far beyond the realm of health care into our economy as a whole,” Pacheco said in a statement.

"I do not understand, however, how these challenges justify abandoning our responsibility to prevent the worst effects of climate change that will bring even more devastating, more permanent catastrophe. If we fail to take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions, we will realize that dealing with COVID-19 was child's play compared to the worst effects of the climate crisis," he said.


Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat who has pushed for legislation to set a net-zero emissions requirement for Massachusetts, likened the national scramble to respond to a viral pandemic to what might happen if policymakers ignore the science of climate change.

A study published in the journal National Climate Change and reported in The Washington Post found that global emissions declined precipitously in March and April as nations shutdown their economies and urged people to stay at home.