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States Bring Economic Clout to Fighting Climate Change

Since 2005, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states have reduced carbon emissions by 40 percent. (PublicDomainPictures)
Since 2005, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states have reduced carbon emissions by 40 percent. (PublicDomainPictures)
June 28, 2017

NEW YORK - President Trump may try to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, but the states that already are cutting emissions wield a lot of political and economic power.

Nine states, including New York, participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a mandatory, market-based program to reduce carbon emissions. According to a new analysis by the Acadia Center, since 2005 the RGGI states have reduced carbon emissions by 40 percent while their economies have grown by 25 percent, outpacing the rest of the country.

Acadia analyst Jordan Stutt said these states bring real economic clout to the effort to combat climate change.

"Together, they represent the sixth-largest economy in the entire world," he said. "This is no longer about symbolic statements; it's about real action to reduce harmful emissions."

Following the president's announcement, the RGGI states reasserted their commitment to upholding the Paris agreement.

The report found that participation in RGGI has done more than reduce carbon emissions. Stutt said reductions of such other pollutants as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides have led to fewer asthma and heart attacks, premature deaths, and missed school and work days - all of which saves money.

"When we quantify all of those avoided impacts," he said, "we see that RGGI has delivered $5.7 billion in avoided health costs for the region."

Stutt added that electricity prices have also declined in RGGI states while going up in other states.

Six of the RGGI states have joined with seven other states and territories to form the U.S. Climate Alliance. While the alliance doesn't have a coordinated plan to reduce emissions, Stutt noted that some of the states already have policies in effect while others have legislation in progress.

"There are a number of different vehicles being discussed to address this issue," he said, "and it's encouraging to see that all these states are going to be working together to achieve that goal."

Combined, the U.S. Climate Alliance states, which include California, represent the third-largest economy in the world, behind the United States and China.

The analysis is online at acadiacenter.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY