Over the past couple of years, public awareness of, and concern for, the threat that global warming poses to human life on earth has risen steadily. This past year saw the costliest slew of weather disasters in history — hurricanes, tornados, floods, forest fires, and drought — and record global summer temperatures which took thousands of lives across the globe. In addition, rising sea levels threaten coastal cities around the world. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that the primary cause of global warming is the release of what are called greenhouse gases (GHG), the major one being carbon dioxide, with methane a close second. Both of these gases are produced by the burning of fossil fuels, namely, coal, oil and natural gas.
Massachusetts now has an opportunity to play a leading role in response to this challenge, as it has with other issues in the past; for example, in establishing universal health coverage across the state, and leading the nation in building a large off-shore wind installation off the coast of Cape Cod. But first, a little background to this new opportunity for leadership.
A couple of months ago, Governor Baker signed the Next Generation Roadmap Law (S.9). And his Clean Energy Climate Plan (CECP) details policies and strategies to equitably and cost effectively reduce emissions and combat climate change. S.9 enacts several of the goals of the CECP. The problem is that Massachusetts does not have the funding it needs to meet the ambitious climate goals set by these two important pieces of legislation.
The solution to this problem is laid out in an important new bill, the Green Future Act (GFA) — HD3292, which provides concrete steps to fund our state’s climate goals. If passed into law, this bill will make Massachusetts a leader once again, this time, by seriously addressing the challenge of climate change. As Representative Driscoll, the lead sponsor of GFA says: “It helps lay out the path forward to how we’re going to decarbonize.” The bill not only provides a framework to reduce emissions, but also to increase economic activity in our state.
The GFA requires the administration to levy carbon fees on all industries within the state which use greenhouse gas emitting fuels; fees will be levied on the electricity, transportation, residential and commercial heating, and industrial sectors. Because there are no fossil fuel industries operating within Massachusetts, the state cannot levy fees on the producers of these fuels, but we can levy fees on those industries within the state that use those fuels to produce electricity, transportation fuel, etc. Producers can now emit carbon pollution freely, without having to pay for the damage they cause to public health and the environment. This bill, if enacted, will dramatically reduce the amount of carbon pollution emitted.
The GFA’s sponsors and economists predict that it will raise $500 to $750 million per year. It will also establish a $500 million green bonding program, giving Massachusetts additional funding to invest in its green future.
And what will the state do with all that money? The GFA targets four investment areas. First, it will establish a Green Infrastructure Fund, investing billions of dollars in projects like electrifying transportation, increasing renewable energy — wind solar and geothermal — and providing rebates to consumers who increase the heating efficiency of their homes.
Second, the GFA will provide aid for cities and towns to fund local green infrastructure, and to prepare for climate change impacts. Municipalities will have local control over how these funds are allocated. Guidelines are included to ensure that a substantial portion of these annual funds will be spent on green infrastructure to assist environmental justice neighborhoods (low income and communities of color) to both adapt to and mitigate the risks of our changing climate.
Third, the GFA will establish a Green Workforce Commission to guide training and development of a 21st century clean energy and green workforce, with $10 million set aside to support displaced fossil fuel workers and their families. It is predicted that by 2030, the GFA will have created 80,000 green jobs in Massachusetts.
Finally, the GFA protects low- income households from increased fossil fuel costs by providing direct cash payments (i.e. rebates). These payments will target the 40% of households with the lowest incomes.
As a result of these green investments and initiatives, Massachusetts can achieve its mandated requirement of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while at the same time cutting air pollution which kills 7,600 people in Massachusetts yearly.
Massachusetts residents are encouraged to contact their state representatives and state senators and urge them to co-sponsor this bill —The Green Future Act — HD3292. The larger the number of representatives and senators that co-sponsor the bill, the sooner and the more likely it is to be considered by the legislature, and passed into law.
Sylvia Staub is a retired clinical psychologist, co-editor of “Psychology and Social Responsibility: Facing Global Challenges” and contributor to “Handbook of Refugee Experience: Trauma, Resilience and Recovery.”