If the ten Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states from Maryland to Maine were a country, they would be the tenth largest emitter of climate-altering carbon pollution in the world, according to a report released today by Environment Maryland. In 2010, the region emitted 533 million metric tons of carbon pollution, more than the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil and France.
“In the wake of Winter Storm Nemo, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene, Maryland and our neighbors must double-down on our commitment to lead the nation in reducing global warming pollution. Gov. O’Malley and Annapolis leaders like Sen. Miller, Sen. Middleton and Del. Davis have taken great strides forward, most recently by promoting offshore wind power. Now, let’s keep moving towards a clean energy—and low-carbon—economy that will help provide lasting health, security and economic stability for our children and grand-children,” said Tommy Landers, director of Environment Maryland.
In addition to offshore wind power legislation, which has passed both chambers of the General Assembly, administration and legislative leaders in Maryland have helped put the state on course to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and put a cap on statewide carbon emissions.
“The RGGI program is a key element of Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act plan,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers. “With our RGGI proceeds, we reinvest in Maryland’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to reduce demand and electricity consumption, thereby helping us achieve our 2020 goal of a 25 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions."
“The RGGI auction proceeds provide Maryland with innumerable benefits,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, Maryland Energy Administration Acting Director. “The auction proceeds allow Maryland to provide low income energy assistance, energy efficiency, conservation and demand response programs that provide affordable, reliable clean energy while reducing our State’s greenhouse gas emissions."
“Reducing carbon dioxide through participation in RGGI is another example of Maryland's commitment to addressing climate change,” said Senator Paul G. Pinsky (D-22), sponsor of legislation both to join RGGI and then to require major emission reductions of greenhouse gases. “This report shows us that committing to carbon reduction and clean energy is resulting in major dividends for the environment and public health.”
“Superstorms and record droughts from global warming are already costing us hundreds of lives and billions of dollars in property damage. Fortunately, the actions we take to reduce global warming pollution are also smart choices for our economy and public health. This report reminds us that improving the environment and economy can go hand in hand,” said Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20). Both Del. Hucker and Sen. Pinsky were sponsors of the original legislation to bring offshore wind power to Maryland.
The report, A Double Success: Tackling Global Warming While Growing the Economy with an Improved Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, shows that lowering global warming emissions is consistent with a growing economy. Between 2000 and 2010, the economies of the ten Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states grew twice as fast per capita as other states while per capita carbon dioxide emissions declined 25 percent faster.
All ten states were part of the original RGGI program, a pioneering agreement to cap carbon pollution from power plants. In February, nine states announced a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions that would lead to a 20 percent reduction over the next decade. States are now revising their rules in order to carry out the agreement. New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie has pulled out of the program, and New Jersey state leaders are engaged in vigorous debate about rejoining the program.
“By promoting clean energy and energy efficiency programs, RGGI helps keep energy dollars in our local economy while reducing the risk of climate change-related costs,” said Pat Stanton, senior vice president for policy and advocacy at the Conservation Services Group, a large energy services company. “In the last five years, RGGI has helped to spur CSG’s growth. We have added over 450 new employees and improved the efficiency, comfort, and affordability of thousands of New England homes.”
Recent analyses also indicate that RGGI has produced a $1.6 billion economic boost to the region through 2011 and that strengthening RGGI could produce an additional $8 billion in economic benefits.
Environment Maryland’s report notes that the region and the rest of the world are in a race against time, citing studies showing that 100-year coastal floods are now predicted to occur every 15 to 35 years. The changing climate threatens more than 1.5 million people in the 10 states from Maryland to Maine living in coastal flood zones, and could lead to $212 billion in storm-related economic losses by mid-century.
“Reducing emissions from power plants has a direct positive impact on the health of our communities, translating into less asthma, less respiratory disease and less allergies,” said Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm, which works with the health care industry to promote sustainable practices. “Addressing climate change through RGGI and similar policies will help protect our families from climate-related diseases and other health impacts of extreme weather events.”
“There’s no time to waste in tackling the climate challenge, and it’s got to start right here and right now,” said Landers. “The success that Maryland and our neighbors are having in limiting pollution, promoting energy efficiency and shifting to renewables make me confident that we can continue showing the nation and the world that we can do this.”
The report recommends that the states follow through on their commitment to strengthen RGGI by quickly adopting strong rules to lower emissions from power plants, and the report urges further action as well:
- Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts need to implement their laws with binding targets for reducing global warming pollution.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should move forward on limiting global warming pollution from new and existing power plants in all states.
- New Jersey should rejoin the RGGI program, and lead the way in preventing increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels while bolstering the state’s economy.
- More states should take action to limit emissions, and joining RGGI would be a great step forward.