With the signing into law of the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act four years ago, Massachusetts launched what is arguably the nation’s most aggressive program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The cornerstone of the Act is a mandate that by 2020 the state’s GHG emissions be reduced 25% from 1990 levels. MassInc recently released a comprehensive report warning that this reduction goal may be slipping away.
According to the report, one area that is critical to meeting the GHG emission goal is getting cars off the road, especially single-occupancy vehicles. Although last year saw public transportation ridership at its highest level ever, the report states that more needs to be done in that area. Another important GHG emission-reducing activity seen as in danger is the proposed extension into southern New England of power transmission lines carrying hydroelectric power from Canada. Opposition to the extension, as well as financial and permitting hurdles, place the extension at risk. This is no small matter, since the use of hydroelectric power accounts for more than one-quarter of the targeted 25% GHG emissions reduction.
Despite the report, state officials are confident that the 25% reduction goal can be met in the next eight years. Two bright spots are increased energy efficiency and the closing of one of the state’s major coal-fired power stations. As the state strives to reach the reduction goal, look for a more aggressive stance by state regulators in permitting development projects, such as requiring adherence to stringent LEED standards, promotion of public transportation, tighter controls on parking, and more reliance on renewable energy sources.