Climate change is taking its toll

Last year was recently declared the hottest year on record — for the 15th time in the past 16 years. New England is warming faster than any other region in the United States except for Alaska, and we're already feeling the effects of climate change, from severe drought taking its toll on the iconic dairy farms of New York, to stronger storms and hurricanes battering the Coney Island boardwalk.

Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Herbert 

The pollution that contributes to climate change also hurts our health — especially in the densely populated Northeast. In 2015, residents of Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and Wilmington, Del., all experienced 89 or more days of elevated levels of smog. Air pollution is even affecting smaller communities, like Norwalk, Conn., and Berlin, N.H.

We know we need to do much more to tackle the climate crisis. Climate scientists agree that to avoid the worst climate impacts, we need to stop burning virtually all fossil fuels and transition to clean, renewable energy by 2050.

Luckily, the Northeast is already well on its way to becoming a leader in cutting global warming pollution. Here, nine states including New York are taking part in America’s most successful regional clean air and climate protection program: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The best regional clean air and climate program you’ve never heard of

Over the past decade, RGGI has helped cut regional power plant pollution in half — the equivalent of retiring 22 coal-fired power plants — and it has invested $2.6 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency programs across the region.

The way the program creates these benefits is ingenious. It ratchets down the emissions from power plants each year and makes polluters pay to pollute. That revenue is then invested in clean energy and energy efficiency, which has led to healthier communities and thriving economies.

The program has helped clean up our air, preventing 600 premature deaths over its first six years in effect. It has helped make the region more energy efficient: Electricity use is down by five percent since 2005, even as the regional economy grew by 10 percent. And it has boosted renewable energy in the region, where solar and wind power generation have more than doubled in the past 10 years.

These benefits matter for our communities. For example, the Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., retrofitted its lighting and cooling systems with support from RGGI funding. The project saves the hospital more than $23,000 per year in electric bills, enabling them to keep energy costs down and cut back on carbon pollution — all while expanding its core mission of keeping kids healthy.

In Massachusetts, the towns of Swampscott and Wenham installed energy-efficient street lighting with revenue from RGGI, reducing the towns’ electricity costs by more than $100,000 per year. At the same time, the towns are able to cut as much carbon pollution per year as contained in 33,000 gallons of gasoline.

Cummings Properties via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Doubling down on climate progress

As the president and Congress push to repeal our best federal policies for reducing global warming pollution, like the Clean Power Plan and federal clean car standards, it’s up to us to lead the way forward. Now more than ever, we need to make even more progress to combat climate change here in New York.

The good news is that we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference. We can double the strength of RGGI (so the cap on emissions declines 5 percent each year), which has a proven track record of protecting our clean air and climate.

By setting RGGI’s sights higher, we could prevent up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over the next decade, and help the region invest twice as much money in clean energy.

Doubling its strength would cut pollution faster, provide cleaner and healthier air for our families, and show the rest of the country and the world that our region is committed to doing what it takes to address global warming.

Christopher Crews

New York can lead the way

Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to act today to double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The program has halved global warming pollution in the Northeast the past decade alone, and it can cut pollution in half again by 2030 while investing more money in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Environment New York and our national network have been on the ground for decades. We shaped RGGI from the very beginning, helping to lead a coalition that built the grassroots support needed to design the program, and the political willpower to put it in place.

We need to tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo to act. It’s up to us to lead — because climate can’t wait.

Issue updates

News Release | Environment New York Research & Policy Center

New York Models Strong, Bipartisan Climate Action for the Nation

Today Environment New York Research & Policy Center released a new report touting the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s best regional climate program that has dramatically cut carbon pollution.  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. 

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Report | Environment New York Research & Policy Center

Cooler Together

Now more than ever, state leadership is critical for America to make progress in the fight against global warming. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative shows the way forward – bringing together political leaders of both parties around effective policies to curb carbon pollution and accelerate the transition to clean energy.

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News Release | Environment New York

New York cracks down on global warming pollution with new power plant rules

Today, nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states finalized new rules to cut power plant pollution by at least two-thirds below 2005 levels by 2030. The action makes the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – even better. This program – which first took effect in 2009 – limits dangerous pollution from power plants in New York and across the region, helping to slow the warming of our planet and clean up our air. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.

Today’s decision follows a multi-year review of the program with broad stakeholder input, including more than 500 leaders calling for greater ambition. The action is particularly noteworthy in light of the ongoing efforts of the Trump administration to reverse prior administrations’ actions to fight climate change, including the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York, issued the following statement:

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News Release | Environment New York

Advocates thank governors for cutting pollution, urge continued action

Officials and stakeholders from nine northeastern states gathered on Monday, September 25 in Baltimore, Maryland to discuss a new plan to cut pollution from power plants another 30 percent by 2030. The proposal will improve the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), building on its success by further limiting pollution and investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

The states’ plan stands in stark contrast to actions by the Trump Administration to let polluters off the hook and weaken core national environmental laws. The nine participating states are:  Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Five of the states are led by Republican governors, and four by Democrats. Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York, offered the following statement:

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