Last week, the Georgetown Climate Center released a report analyzing the impacts of federal and state policies on emissions reductions in the transportation sector. The report was released in conjunction with an announcement by five Northeast states plus the District of Columbia saying they would work together to develop a regional market-based policy to cut emissions from transportation. During today's OnPoint, Kathryn Zyla, deputy director of the Georgetown Climate Center, discusses the potential that exists in the Northeast to go beyond what current federal and state policies will achieve.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Kathryn Zyla, deputy director of the Georgetown Climate Center. Kate, thanks for coming on the show.
Kathryn Zyla: Thank you very much for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: Kate, the Climate Center has just released a new report analyzing the impacts of current federal and state policies on emissions reductions in the transportation sector, and also highlighting the potential that exists in the Northeast to go beyond those numbers. Where do the biggest opportunities in the Northeast to push past the 29 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, and achieve up to a 40 percent reduction?
Kathryn Zyla: Sure. One of the interesting things about transportation, which is where this report focused, is that there isn't really one big place you get everything from. And so what the report does is look at a whole suite of strategies that states can put together to get reductions. You see a lot of them coming from electric vehicles, but you also see a lot coming from transit, from smart growth, from active transportation, like walking and biking. So it's really a whole set of things, rather than one big one.
Monica Trauzzi: But it sounds like federal standards, current federal standards, are projected to do a relatively good job. I mean, 29 percent reduction is fairly significant. So why do you think more needs to be done to get to that higher number?
Kathryn Zyla: Sure. Yeah. Our analysis estimates that the existing federal and existing state policies would get a 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic by 2030. But if you look at how that compares to the goals that states already have on the books, if you look at how that compares to the long-term goals that the United States have, that states have, that the global community is talking about at the negotiations in Paris this winter, you see that the 29 percent doesn't really put you on the path to get to where you need to go in 2050.
And so we're looking at additional reductions in the transportation sector. In particular, in this region of the country, transportation is the largest source of emissions, and so how do we get reductions from that sector that can get us on the path we need to go long term?
Monica Trauzzi: And the report was released in conjunction with an announcement by five Northeast states as well as the District of Columbia to work together to develop a regional market-based policy to cut emissions from transportation. These are RGGI states that are already very familiar with market-based approaches. So what could a market-based approach look like in terms of transportation?
Kathryn Zyla: Yeah, that's actually part of what we're going to be working on over the next few months, and as long as it takes. The states, many of them -- D.C. is not part of the RGGI, but many of the states are RGGI states and so have this sense of what the market-based program looks like for the power sector.
But the first thing we're going to do is actually take a look at different policy models that are out there. The report looks at several, we'll look at several, and really try to figure out what this means for the transportation sector. So RGGI is one model, but we're going to start broader than that and look around and see what states are really interested in exploring, and try to get more information for them and more ideas for them so they have a few things to choose from on the table. So they're really looking at developing multiple policies to see what they -- what seems to fit the region best.
Monica Trauzzi: Many questions about emissions reductions are focused on money and economics. So how do states ensure that they can reduce emissions from the transportation sector while still continuing to grow their economies?
Kathryn Zyla: Yeah, that's been a really important part of our discussions, and in addition, the fact that reducing greenhouse gas emissions means usually reducing fuel consumption, and a lot of the transportation infrastructure is paid for by taxes on fuel. And so we had to think about how to, one, make sure the economy keeps growing, and two, make sure that we were able to fund transportation infrastructure. And so we've really combined those conversations throughout.
And the macroeconomic part of our analysis looks at a full suite of policies and shows that you can see significant increases in GDP and consumers spending dollars in their pockets with this full suite of policies.
Monica Trauzzi: This comes at a time when states are already taking steps to reduce emissions from other sectors as well. Does there come a point where it is too much from an economic standpoint, and where they'll have to take a look and pick and choose which sectors to reduce emissions from?
Kathryn Zyla: I think we're going to need to reduce emissions from all sectors pretty broadly, and we can't put it on any one sector and hope they do everything. We've got to make sure that we're reducing across the economy. But we also need to make sure we're keeping the economy strong while we do that, and that's why the analysis made sure to look at macroeconomic impacts as well as emissions reductions, and to make sure that as the states are considering their options, they're also keeping an eye on what it does for their economies, for their jobs, for their consumers along the way.
Monica Trauzzi: So the work that these five states and D.C. are doing, is the hope that they'll provide a model that can essentially be shopped around to other regions and other states, much like RGGI has been done, especially now with Clean Power Plan compliance?
Kathryn Zyla: Yeah. I guess -- I think that would be great. As you mentioned, you know, I'm glad these are RGGI states. RGGI has been the model in the power sector for says that states can reduce emissions with market-based policies and through working with other states. I think for now, we've got a lot of work to do to see what this looks like in this region, so we're going to start there, look at the data we have, look at the policy models we have, and try to figure out what works best for these six jurisdictions. If that ultimately ends up being a model for others, that's fantastic. But for now, we've got to figure out what makes sense here.
Monica Trauzzi: All right. We'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.
Kathryn Zyla: Thank you very much.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
[End of Audio]