Maryland Models Strong, Bipartisan Climate Action for the Nation

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Morgan Hayward

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America

Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center

Today Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center released a new report touting the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s best regional climate program that has dramatically cut carbon pollution.  The report, Cooler Together: The Benefits of Cooperative Action Against Global Warming in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Beyond,  concludes that the newly strengthened program has the potential to provide $7.3 billion in funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reductions over the next 13 years. 

“Maryland is showing that we can work together across party lines to cut carbon pollution, clean our air, and protect our climate, in sharp contrast to the climate denial at the federal level, said Morgan Folger, Global Warming Solutions Associate with Environment Maryland.

The report celebrates the region’s leadership in implementing effective solutions to climate change. Building on the progress of the program’s first decade, the report finds that a stronger Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with more participating states would:

  • Cut carbon pollution from power plants in the Northeast to less than a third of their 2005 levels by 2030 – a dramatic reduction in emissions that positions the region for meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
  • Prevent a further 125 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and provide $7.3 billion in funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reduction projects over the next 13 years, if funding trends continue on historic patterns.

“To address global warming, we need to set strong limits on pollution, invest in clean energy, and build widespread, bipartisan support for bold action,” said Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, which co-authored the report. “This program hits all those marks, and shows that change is possible.”

Nine states have participated since the program’s beginning: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Five of the states are led by Republican governors and four by Democratic governors.  In late January 2018, New Jersey announced it would rejoin RGGI.  Cooler Together estimates that by joining the program now, both New Jersey and Virginia could generate as much as $4.2 billion in revenue by 2030 that could speed their transition to clean energy, while reducing as much as 88 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions cumulatively.

Other states, especially those in the Climate Alliance, can look to the RGGI program as an effective model of climate action. Every state can adopt the strategies that have made the program successful: capping carbon pollution, putting a price on carbon emissions, and reinvesting revenue in the clean energy transition.

Clean energy advocates joined citizens who have benefited from the climate program at the Killarney House, an Irish pub in Davidsonville, Maryland, to celebrate climate action. Killarney House installed solar panels on their roof thanks to support from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles said, “The Hogan Administration is proud of its leadership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, including its role in forging the 2017 consensus agreement to strengthen and renew the program through 2030. RGGI is a shining example of bipartisan action and collaboration to reduce emissions, protect public health, invest in clean and efficient energy, and meet each state’s diverse needs. Maryland will continue to support RGGI and encourage other states, regions, and countries to join in similar efforts to combat climate change, locally and globally.”

“The Killarney House restaurant provides the best example of the one of the company’s core values regarding environmental initiatives and making the goal of reducing our carbon footprint part of our everyday working life,” said Melanie Ferranti, general manager of the Killarney House. “Being green is not just about being Irish it is about helping to reduce the overall carbon footprint.” 

The report reviewed the impressive benefits achieved for the region since the climate program was created in 2005. Key findings include:

  • Contributing to cutting the region’s carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants in half since 2005, according to an analysis by Natural Resources Defense Council, with plans to cut emissions to two-thirds of 2005 levels by 2030;
  • Providing more than $5.7 billion in health benefits to the region, including averting hundreds of premature deaths, as shown in a study conducted by Abt Associates;
  • Saving consumers more than $773 million on their energy bills;

“Strategically targeted investments of RGGI proceeds positioned Maryland to perform comparably ahead of other states in efforts to advance clean energy and reduce energy consumption, ultimately resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said Katherine Magruder, Executive Director of the Maryland Clean Energy Center.  “A portion of those funds support efforts of the Maryland Clean Energy Center as we work to facilitate access to capital and leverage a greater share of private sector investment for energy projects throughout the state.”

“We congratulate the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states for their climate leadership,” concluded Folger. “The success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative shows that bipartisan action on climate change is possible and can lead to dramatic progress and significant benefits.”