As Emissions in Northeast States Decline, Economic Growth Outpaces Nation

Media Contacts
Channing Jones

New Report shows tackling climate change and economic growth can go hand-in-hand

Environment Rhode Island

Providence – A new report by Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center 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, Rhode Island and the 9 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. 

“Rhode Island’s experience over the past decade gives us confidence that, with state leadership and strong policies to promote clean energy and to limit carbon emissions, we can continue to make progress in meeting our goals for reducing the pollution that causes global warming,” said Channing Jones, associate with Environment Rhode Island.

Over the past decade, Rhode Island, in partnership with other states in the region, has taken meaningful steps to reduce its carbon emissions, including:

Reducing Power Plant Emissions: In 2007, Rhode Island officials joined with nine other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including New York and Massachusetts, and other states in the Northeast 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. So far, RGGI has been a tremendous success.  RGGI has already contributed to nearly $69 million in economic growth in our state and added 610 jobs during the first two and a half years of operation.

Cleaner Cars: Rhode Island took meaningful action to reduce tailpipe emissions limits for carbon dioxide and other pollutants when it adopted the Low Emissions Vehicle Program in 2005.

Improving energy efficiency: Rhode Island ranks fifth in the country for energy efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Five of the other top ten states have also been involved in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Expanding renewable energy: Rhode Island and all the states in the RGGI program have adopted a renewable electricity standard designed to increase production of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. In 2000, the Northeast had only 24 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity; by 2010 it had 1,671 MW.  The region also had 397 MW of solar energy capacity by the end of 2010, of which 70 percent was installed in either 2009 or 2010.

The region’s efforts have paid off in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, even as the region’s economy has grown faster than the nation as a whole. In fact, the 10 northeastern states participating in RGGI emitted 161 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from energy use in 2009 – 15 percent less than in 2000 and 9 percent less than in 1990.

“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 – the region cannot afford to rest on its laurels,” said Jones. “We look forward to working with our state leaders and other stakeholders to continue that progress by improving RGGI and other policies that will lead to a cleaner, more secure energy future.”