A new report by Environment New York Research and Policy Center released today highlights how clean energy and environmental policies have helped states reduce global warming emissions while challenging claims that these actions undermine economic growth.
According to A Record of Leadership: How Northeastern States Are Cutting Global Warming Pollution and Building a Clean Economy, New York 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.
“New York has shown over the last decade that economic growth and tackling global warming emissions are compatible,” said David VanLuven, Director of Environment New York. “We can meet our goals for reducing carbon pollution if we continue to implement strong policies that limit carbon emissions and promote renewable energy.”
A 2011 report by Columbia University, Cornell University, and CUNY concluded that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are increasing temperatures in New York, which in turn are raising sea levels and increasing the frequency and intensity of storms, heat waves, and paradoxically, droughts between the storms.
Over the past decade, New York, in partnership with other states in the region, has taken meaningful steps to reduce its carbon emissions, including:
- Reducing Power Plant Emissions: New York joined nine other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in 2005 to establish 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: New York adopted the Clean Cars program to limit tailpipe emissions for carbon dioxide and require cars to have better fuel economy.
- Expanding renewable energy: New York and all the states in the RGGI program adopted renewable energy standards and other policies to ramp up renewable energy.
- Improving energy efficiency: New York and the other Northeast states have adopted a variety of energy efficiency programs, including standards for appliances, utility energy efficiency programs and building codes. According to rankings by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, New York ranks third nationally for energy efficiency. Six of the top ten ranked states are in the Northeast.
“Clean energy creates cleaner air and that means healthier lungs and healthier people,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “As more people become aware that air pollution leads to premature death and disease, more will demand to live and work in areas that embrace efforts like clean energy. That’s why it’s so important that Northeast states continue to strengthen and build on programs like RGGI.”
“Investing RGGI revenue in Green Jobs-Green NY has already increased the number of completed home energy assessments and upgrades, supporting existing jobs and creating new ones,” says Anthony Ng, Green & Equitable Economies Strategist at the Center for Working Families, the organization responsible for crafting the Green Jobs-Green NY and companion utility bill financing policies. “RGGI has been vital to promoting energy efficiency and clean energy, and we must strengthen the program to achieve further economic and environmental benefits in the future.”
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 the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Northeast states can help secure more emission reductions and drive more investments into clean energy by improving this successful program.
“We’ve made tremendous progress, but with global warming and fossil fuel dependence continuing to threaten the Northeast – and with even greater emission reductions needed in the years ahead – New York cannot afford to rest on its laurels,” said VanLuven. “We look forward to working with our state leaders and other stakeholders to improve RGGI and other policies that will lead to a cleaner and more secure energy future.”