Boston – A joint climate program created by Massachusetts and eight other states is cutting carbon pollution while providing major funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, according to a recent report from the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center.
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.
“The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are 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 Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “We should build on our past success by accelerating our transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”
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, while Virginia is also exploring joining the program.
"Funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has played a critical role in supporting energy efficiency programs at the state level, including Mass Save and the Green Communities grant program," said Sue Coakley, Executive Director for Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP). "With continued investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can lead the nation toward a zero-carbon future."
Cooler Together estimates that by joining RGGI 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.
"Thanks to funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Salem has completed energy efficiency upgrades at our schools and other municipal buildings, as well as switching our streetlights to efficient LEDs," said Jeff Barz-Snell, a member of the Sustainability, Energy and Resiliency Committee for the City of Salem. "A stronger RGGI will mean more support for cities and towns to reduce their energy costs and move closer to 100 percent renewable energy."
“Worcester was in the first round of Massachusetts municipalities to be designated a ‘Green Community,’” said Luba Zhaurova, Sustainability Project Manager for the City of Worcester. “This has provided the City access to grant funding, enabling it to further develop green initiatives.”
“We congratulate the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states for their climate leadership,” said Hellerstein. “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.”
The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.