The United States, long considered a laggard in addressing global warming, is poised to achieve substantial reductions in global warming pollution thanks to clean energy policies adopted over the past decade by state governments, according to a new report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center.
“While there’s no doubt that Congress must pass a comprehensive climate bill, our research shows that the states have delivered a down payment on the pollution reductions,” said Nancy Pyne, Field Associate with Environment Connecticut.
Senator Edward Meyer of Guilford, Co-chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, proudly stated, ” There is no bill I have ever sponsored that is more important than the bill which reduced green house gas emissions in Connecticut and addressed the major issue of climate change.”
Representative Richard Roy of Milford, Environment Committee Co-chair, said, “I encourage the federal government to enact, adopt or adapt legislation or regulations based on what has been accomplished by Connecticut and other states.” Roy added, “The United States could move to the forefront on addressing the issue of global warming by using state activities as a road map to comprehensive programs to protect the polar caps as well as threatened coastal lands. Congress must act now to control carbon emissions that contribute to the warming that is melting glaciers and raising sea levels.”
The new report, America on the Move, released just days before world leaders convene in Copenhagen to negotiate an international agreement on global warming, found that state policies will reduce global warming pollution by approximately 536 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year by 2020 compared to business as usual.
The emission reductions are significant. They represent:
• More global warming pollution than is currently emitted annually by all but eight of the world’s nations
• Approximately 7 percent of total U.S. global warming pollution in 2007
• Annual emissions from 104 million cars – about 42 percent of the nation’s motor vehicles
• Annual emissions from 163 coal-fired power plants – about 27 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plant fleet.
“We can be proud that action in the United States on global warming started in 2001 right here in New England. Connecticut has set important national precedents reducing global warming pollution from power plants and setting a renewable electricity standard, clean cars standards, and a state wide “carbon cap” law,” said Roger Smith, campaign Director for Clean Water Action and Coordinator of the Connecticut Climate Coalition. “It’s time for President Obama to show the world we’re serious and commit the United States to significant pollution reductions in Copenhagen.”
America on the Move reviewed more than 100 policies adopted by states, most of them enacted over the past decade, and projected the emission reductions that will result from those actions.
For example, while the U.S. Congress has yet to adopt a binding national limit on global warming pollution, Connecticut and five other U.S. states – California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey – have adopted such regulations. These six states account for nearly a quarter of America’s economic output and 13 percent of its fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions. If these six states were a separate country, they would rank as the world’s fifth-largest economy and seventh-leading emitter of carbon dioxide.
Collectively, these six states have committed to reducing global warming pollution by approximately 13 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. State-level programs include the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap on power plant emissions adopted by Connecticut and 9 northeastern states. The report shows that mandatory emission caps will reduce U.S. emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons per year by 2020 – a level of carbon dioxide pollution comparable to emissions produced annually by the Netherlands and Turkey.
According to the report, additional reductions will result from a variety of clean energy policies adopted by multiple states including Connecticut, namely renewable electricity standards adopted by 29 states, energy efficiency resource standards adopted by 22 states, and a variety of other policies.
Moreover, since President Obama’s inauguration in January, the federal government has implemented several policies initiated by states nationwide (including limits on vehicle global warming pollution adopted by Connecticut, California and 12 other states,) energy efficiency standards for appliances and lighting, and energy-usage codes for buildings. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress in February, also supports a variety of state and local programs to save energy and reduce global warming pollution.
“When it comes to America’s response to global warming, what’s happening on Capitol Hill is only half the story,” said Charles Rothenberger, Staff Attorney for Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “States have great power to reduce global warming pollution within their borders and many states are now using that power to implement responsible energy policies that can and should serve as a model for national action,” he added.
Environment Connecticut, Clean Water Action and Connecticut Fund for the Environment urged the federal government to require reductions in global warming pollution in the United States consistent with the reductions science tells us are necessary to prevent the worst impacts of global warming – specifically, emission reductions of 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and at least 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, with the vast majority of those reductions to occur domestically. They also encouraged the federal government to implement the best clean energy policies already in place at the state-level, and urged states to continue to take leadership in adopting and implementing strong policies to reduce global warming pollution.
“States have been called America’s ‘laboratories of democracy,’” said Pyne “By taking strong action to address global warming, states are showing the nation – and the world – that a clean energy future is within our reach,” she concluded.