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RGGI Succeeds in Cutting Climate Pollution

A new report confirms that capping carbon spurs investment in renewables and energy efficiency. (Digitalpilgrim/Wikimedia Commons)
A new report confirms that capping carbon spurs investment in renewables and energy efficiency. (Digitalpilgrim/Wikimedia Commons)
July 29, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. - The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, continues to make real progress in reducing carbon emissions. A new status report from the Acadia Center finds the nine cooperating Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, including New York, are reaping benefits on multiple fronts.

Peter Shattuck, who heads the Center's Clean Energy Initiative, said since its launch in 2009, those states have cut carbon emissions by 37 percent.

"Over that same time period, they've seen economic growth that has outpaced other states that have yet to act significantly on climate," he said. "And electricity prices are below where they were when the program launched."

Electric rates have gone up more than seven percent in other states. The status report is background material for a review to determine the future course of the program.

RGGI takes a market-based 'cap-and-trade' approach to reducing emissions, charging power plants for their carbon emissions and using that money to create what Shattuck calls a "virtuous cycle."

"Reducing the carbon pollution that we don't want, and investing in energy efficiency, which saves consumers money, reduces carbon pollution and makes the cost of the program come down," he added.

The report said investments in energy efficiency in the nine states are up 230 percent, and gains are projected to continue into the future.

The RGGI cap is set to reduce carbon emissions by two-and-a-half-percent a year for the next four years. But Shattuck believes this year's review of the program could result in extending it for an additional ten years, and raising the target to five percent.

"That's the trend that we've seen under RGGI to date, and anything short of doubling down will make it harder for states to achieve the reductions in climate pollution that we need to see," he said.

Shattuck said the success of RGGI so far proves that a flexible but ambitious, market-based program can produce results faster than anticipated, and at lower cost.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT