A new report by Environment Maryland released today highlights the role that clean energy and environmental policies have played in moving states toward meeting targets for reducing global warming emissions, while challenging claims that actions that reduce emissions undermine economic growth.
According to A Record of Leadership: How Northeastern States are Cutting Global Warming Pollution and Building a Clean Economy, Maryland and the nine other states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have cut per capita carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent faster than the rest of the nation, even as the region’s gross product per capita grew 87 percent faster than the rest of the United States.
A number of elected officials voiced their support for RGGI and its benefits for both the environment and the economy in Maryland.
“The latest report from Environment Maryland confirms that for Maryland and other states, taking aggressive action to cut pollution paired with building a new energy future can help grow our economy. Congress needs to expand these efforts nationwide by taking strong action to curb further carbon pollution and investing in clean, renewable energy,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“Promoting clean energy technology and innovation is the best way to prepare Maryland for future economic success. RGGI is moving us in the right direction, and I’m proud of the impressive progress our state has made on this front,” said Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3).
Maryland Secretary of the Environment, Robert Summers, also touted RGGI for its economic and environmental benefits.
“We know that we must commit to reducing greenhouse gases for the prosperity of our current and future generations. RGGI is a key element of Maryland’s draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020—and a preliminary analysis shows that implementation of the strategies in that plan will create approximately 36,000 jobs and result in more than $6 billion in additional economic output,” said Sec. Summers.
Over the past decade, Maryland, in partnership with other states in the region, has taken meaningful steps to reduce its carbon emissions, including:
- Capping Carbon Emissions: In 2009, Governor O’Malley signed a bill to reduce emissions by 25% below 2006 levels by 2020.
- Reducing Power Plant Emissions: In 2006, Maryland officials joined with nine other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including New York and Delaware to establish the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first program in the United States to limit global warming emissions from power plants, sell permits to emit carbon and invest the revenues in energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives.
- Cleaner Cars: Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine adopted the Clean Cars program to limit tailpipe emissions for carbon dioxide and require cars to have better fuel economy.
- Expanding renewable energy: Maryland and all the states in the RGGI program have adopted renewable energy standards and other policies to ramp up renewable energy.
- Improving energy efficiency: Maryland and the other Northeast states have adopted a variety of energy efficiency programs; including standards for appliances, utility energy efficiency programs, building codes and other programs. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, six of the top ten ranked states on energy efficiency are in the Northeast. Maryland ranks 10th.
A number of state officials agree that RGGI has made important strides. However, for RGGI to continue delivering results, many believe that it must be strengthened.
“Maryland has been a leader in promoting clean energy, reducing pollution, and promoting energy efficiency, and RGGI has been a key part of those efforts. This report shows we do not need to choose between our economy and our environment. We can and should strengthen the program so that we can keep this forward momentum going,” said Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Environmental Matters Committee in the state House of Delegates.
“Marylanders understand energy efficiency, and they care deeply about preventing global warming. They know that investing in efficiency saves them money and energy use, while it cuts air pollution. Plus, this recent extreme weather is a very real reminder of the dangers that global warming poses for Maryland and the whole country. RGGI is critical, and we need to strengthen it. We need to invest more in efficiency, and we need to be more aggressive in clamping down on global warming pollution,” added Delegate Tom Hucker of Maryland’s 20th legislative district.
The report called on the states to:
- Continue to set aggressive goals and planning to reach them. States with statewide targets for reducing global warming pollution should redouble their efforts to identify and tap all available sources of emission reductions, and engage and inform the public about their efforts.
- Strengthen RGGI. Northeast states can help secure more emission reductions and drive more investments into clean energy by improving this successful program.
“We’ve made great progress, but with global warming and fossil fuel dependence continuing to threaten Maryland and our neighbors – and with even greater emission reductions needed in the years ahead – we need to redouble our efforts. We look forward to working with our state leaders and other stakeholders to continue the progress we’ve made by improving RGGI and other policies that will lead to a cleaner and more secure energy future,” said Tommy Landers, director of Environment Maryland.