Wednesday, March 27, 2013

RGGI is Increasing Renewables while Reducing GHGs and Spurring Economic Growth

According to a report released on March 26th, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has spurred the growth of renewable energy, reduced greenhouse gases (GHGs) and helped to grow the economy in the US Northeast. Between 2000 and 2010, the economies of the ten Northeast states grew twice as fast per capita as other states while per capita carbon dioxide emissions declined 25 percent faster.

These are the findings of a report released by Environment America. The report titled "A Double Success: Tackling Global Warming While Growing the Economy with an Improved Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative," shows that it is possible to increase renewable energy, lower GHGs and grow the economy at all at the same time.

“By promoting clean energy and energy efficiency programs, RGGI helps keep energy dollars in our local economy while reducing the risk of climate change-related costs,” said Pat Stanton, senior vice president for policy and advocacy at the Conservation Services Group (CSG), a large energy services company. “In the last five years, RGGI has helped to spur CSG’s growth. We have added over 450 new employees and improved the efficiency, comfort, and affordability of thousands of New England homes.”

Recent analyses also indicate that RGGI has produced a $1.6 billion economic boost to the region through 2011 and that strengthening RGGI could produce an additional $8 billion in economic benefits.

“By using RGGI to accelerate investments in energy efficiency, the Northeast states have made RGGI into a winner for businesses and consumers in the Northeast,” stated the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships’ public policy director Jim O’Reilly. “This report shows that RGGI will continue to be a critical tool for states to manage their energy use and maintain our competitive advantage as we emerge from the economic downturn.”

Reducing global warming causing emissions is crucial to preempt an increase in the number of floods to affect the Northeast. These floods impact 1.5 million people in the Northeast living in coastal flood zones. The report indicates that the costs of these floods could reach $212 billion in storm-related economic losses by mid-century.

“In the wake of Winter Storm Nemo, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene, the Northeast must double-down on its commitment to lead the nation in reducing the pollution that’s warming the planet and changing our climate,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America. Sargent went on to say “There’s no time to waste in tackling the climate challenge and it’s got to start right here and right now. The success that these states are having in limiting pollution, promoting energy efficiency and shifting to renewables should give us the confidence that they can continue to show the nation and the world that it can be done.”

In February, nine of the ten states involved in RGGI announced a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions that would lead to a 20 percent reduction over the next decade.

The report urged further action including:

  • New Jersey should rejoin the RGGI program, and lead the way in preventing increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels while bolstering the state’s economy.
  • Northeast states should adopt limits on global warming pollution that go beyond the electricity sector to include transportation and heating fuels.
  • Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts must implement their laws with binding targets for reducing global warming pollution.
  • More states should take action to limit emissions, and joining RGGI would be a great step forward.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should move forward on limiting global warming pollution from new and existing power plants in all states.

These efforts will not only help to stave off climate change, they will also help provide a healthier environment .

“Reducing emissions from power plants has a direct positive impact on the health of our communities, translating into less asthma, less respiratory disease and less allergies,” said Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm, which works with the health care industry to promote sustainable practices. “Addressing climate change through RGGI and similar policies will help protect our families from climate-related diseases and other health impacts of extreme weather events.”

“Strengthening programs such as RGGI is a win-win for the Northeast,” said Sargent. “We can reduce the impacts of global warming while powering our clean energy economy.”

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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