Massachusetts was one of the first states to launch an ambitious
greenhouse gas reduction program, setting a 2020 goal of cutting
emissions 25% from 1990 levels and a 2050 goal of an 80% reduction.
With less than eight years to go before 2020, is the Commonwealth
on track to measure up? According to a report released this week by think tank MassINC and the
Energy States Alliance, maybe not.
The report concludes that, although Massachusetts has
implemented many effective programs -- notably the renewable
portfolio standard, energy efficiency programs, and Green
Communities program, all of which were introduced in 2008 --
implementation of new activities and initiatives called for in the
Clean Energy and Climate Change Plan for 2020, released in 2010, is
lagging. The lag is sufficiently significant that Massachusetts may
miss its 25% reduction mark -- only no one's really sure.
One of the main problems is that the
2020 Plan did not lay out specifics or create any systems to
track and monitor progress and milestones along the way. Although
the authors praise the 2020 Plan as being based on solid analysis
and putting forth appropriate, logical actions, they conclude that
without a full work plan or monitoring programs, the state does not
have specific expectations or a way to measure them. Without a
publicly accessible, central scorecard of emissions, milestones and
projected effects of different initiatives, it is difficult even
for those within state government -- let along outsiders -- to know
how well the state is doing.
The report also identified a number of unknowns within
particular initiatives. For instance, it is not clear how much
methane is currently leaking from aging natural gas pipelines. The
report recommends that the Department of Public Utilities and
Department of Environmental Protection work aggressively to measure
the extent of the problem and create incentives for gas companies
to fix the leaks of this potent greenhouse gas quickly.
The authors make 4 main recommendations:
the Governor should appoint a single individual charged with
directing the overall effort and tracking progress across the
set up an effective, transparent process to track and monitor
every item in the 2020 plan, with year-by-year milestones, metrics,
progress indicators and methods to determine whether the state is
make a concerted effort to educate the public about the
specific goals and actions in the 2020 Plan and what citizens can
do to help
reassess the 2020 Plan's lagging initiatives and either
accelerate them to achieve results in time, or replace them with
other viable programs that can achieve the reduction goals
Many of the "lagging" initiatives in the 2020 Plan
relate to transportation, which is responsible for 36% of
Massachusetts' greenhouse gas emissions, the largest share by
sector, and one of the hardest to tackle. But it's not all bad
news -- the authors conclude that the GreenDOT policy provides evidence of a gradual,
but real, culture shift within the bureaucracy. Look for
GreenDOT's own 2020 Implementation Plan, expected this
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