Even before Massachusetts committed to a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, climate groups pushed the state to make climate-related investments to meet its targets.
Legislation known as the Green Future Act, a new report suggests, could provide $1.2 billion per year to achieve those goals. The bill would price carbon emissions in previously untaxed industries and establish a “green bonding” borrowing program.
Just those two initiatives would spur $8.8 billion worth of state and local climate-friendly infrastructure spending from 2023 through 2030, according to the report published Monday by Boston-based nonprofit Climate XChange Education and Research.
Massachusetts already charges carbon pollution fees to power plants through the 11-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which took effect in 2009. The state is set to begin carbon pricing for transportation emissions in 2023 through the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative, which includes 12 states and Washington.
The Green Future Act would add carbon pricing for heating emissions by 2023 and industrial emissions — though several export-oriented businesses would be exempted — by 2025.
Those fees would be assessed when fossil fuels enter the economy rather than when individuals or small businesses consume those products, said Tim Cronin, Massachusetts state director for Climate XChange and a co-author of the report.
The bill seeks to address cost increases faced by consumers through “green dividend” payments, totaling $90 million per year, to households in the bottom 40 percent of state income levels. Another equity-minded component would require at least 60 percent of the yearly $1.1 billion in climate-related infrastructure spending to go toward projects benefiting environmental justice communities.
The legislation would expand upon the 2050 road map bill, Cronin said, by establishing dedicated revenue to fund climate infrastructure investments. The road map bill, signed into law in March, requires the state to hit emissions reduction targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050, as well as reach net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury.
“One of the most important things to do is to make sure we have enough money to spend to get to our 2030, 2040, 2050 goals,” Cronin said, adding that the bill leaves room for adjustments as needs change.
While the legislation would remain in effect at least through 2050, the report stops at 2030 because other state policies and economic conditions are likely to change beyond that date, Cronin said.
State Rep. Bill Driscoll Jr., D-Milton, developed the bill in conjunction with partners from the Green Future Now coalition, which includes organizations such as Climate XChange, 350 Massachusetts, Clean Water Action and Our Climate.
Seventy lawmakers, including 67 of the 140 state representatives, had signed on to the bill as cosponsors as of Friday. A majority of House Democrats have indicated their support, and the bill sits before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
The bulk of the revenue generated would go toward state and local investments, with $5 million per year marked for a “green workforce” development fund and the rest heading to the household dividends. From 2023 through 2030, municipalities would receive $2.2 billion in local aid for climate-related infrastructure, with Berkshire County set to receive $39 million, including $15 million for Pittsfield.
Local aid would come in the form of a cash transfer rather than through grant programs, a development that could bode well for smaller communities.
“[Municipalities] receive the money, and they can use it on anything from electrifying the school bus fleet to getting municipal solar to conserving a piece of land,” Cronin said. “A pitfall in a lot of environmental legislation is the assumption that all communities have the ability to compete for grant programs.”
The bill would establish a green workforce commission that would protect workers affected by the transition away from fossil fuels. The commission would “focus on providing employment that provides comparable working conditions, benefits, living wages, union representation, or job protections,” the bill says.
At least 20 percent of the green workforce fund would go to a rapid response fund designed to provide short-term relief to displaced workers when, for instance, a large fossil fuel power plant closes.
Cronin said the Green Future Act “would work great” with other climate bills. They include the Building Jobs with Justice Act, which aims to tackle housing-related emissions, and the 100 Percent Clean Act, which would put in place requirements that seek to push the state to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, and 100 percent clean heating and transportation by 2045.
“In a broad sense, the Green Future Act raises money and creates structures for our future work,” Cronin said.