The nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. states that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), five of them with Republican governors, unveiled a deal Wednesday to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 30% between 2020 and 2030.
The nine RGGI states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—would collectively count as the sixth-largest economy in the world, with US$2.8 trillion in GDP.
Stakeholders had recently warned that the decision would shape the states’ ability to respond to the Trump administration’s attack on federal climate programs.
“Ultimately, the RGGI states agreed to pursue one of the more ambitious proposals on the table, which calls for lowering emissions caps each year by 3% over the previous year,” InsideClimate News reports. “Under the current plan, their commitment is to lower the cap by 2.5% a year. Under the agreed-upon proposal, power sector emissions would be 65% lower by 2030 than they were in 2009, RGGI’s inaugural year.”
RGGI said the tougher cap would reduce emissions an additional 132 million tons by 2030, equivalent to taking 28 million cars off the road for one year. Recent analysis by the Acadia Center found the states’ emissions are already down 40% from 2008 levels.
Republican governors in three of those states—Maine, New Hampshire, and Maryland—“had previously expressed concern about the costs of more stringent cuts,” ICN notes. And Bloomberg News cast the deal as “a compromise between states with aggressive climate change goals, such as Massachusetts and New York, and more conservative states such as Maine and New Hampshire.”
But in announcing his agreement with the tougher target, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said his state “is committed to finding real bipartisan, common sense solutions to protect our environment, combat climate change, and improve our air quality.”
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) Executive Director Bob Keefe took a victory lap in a Thursday afternoon email to members. “RGGI is a prime example of E2’s message in action: It’s good for the economy and good for the environment,” he wrote. “This issue has been a top priority for E2 for nearly two years and we are pleased to have played a role in this positive outcome.”
Keefe noted that RGGI has already saved consumers US$618 million on their energy bills, “with billions more expected,” while delivering $5.7 billion in health benefits, at least $2.9 billion in regional economic development, and 30,000 person-years of employment.
The Conservation Law Foundation was also quick to endorse the deal. “With the Trump administration making every effort to turn back the clock on environmental progress, it falls to state and regional collaboration to lead the way in protecting public health and defending clean air and water,” said attorney Phelps Turner. “RGGI has been a sterling example of the positive impact such collaboration can have on both the environment and the economy, and today’s new commitments represent a significant contribution to our work to leave a cleaner and safer home for future generations.”
But Food & Water Watch, a critic of cap-and-trade programs, was skeptical. “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is based on the dubious notion that a market-based system can reduce the carbon emissions that are driving the climate crisis,” said renewable energy policy analyst Jim Walsh. “The states participating in RGGI must create real energy programs that tackle emissions head-on with hard caps on pollution, instead of tinkering around the edges with corporate-friendly pollution credit schemes.”
“While the states are moving in a positive direction, this proposal falls short of what’s needed to truly tackle the climate crisis,” Environment America added in a statement to Bloomberg.