A three-year summary of America’s first carbon trading program was released yesterday. The news is pretty good for anyone who cares about reducing carbon emissions; it’s inconvenient for anyone hell-bent on preventing America from implementing a carbon pricing plan.
According to the program administrator of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a nine-state cap-and-trade market established in the Northeast in 2008 — average annual CO2 emissions have fallen by 23 percent compared to emission levels before the start of the program:
Average annual CO2 emissions for the three-year period were 126 million short tons, a 23 percent reduction when compared to the preceding three-year period, 2006-2008. Three-year average electricity consumption across the ten-state region declined only moderately, by 2.4 percent, between the same periods, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
CO2 emissions were collectively reduced to 33 percent below the annual pollution cap of 188 million short tons.
And the predictions of economic collapse and suffering ratepayers? Not happening.
The progress report follows a study from the Analysis Group finding that RGGI added $1.6 billion in value to the economies of participating states, setting up ratepayers for more than $1.1 billion in savings through improved efficiency and development of renewable energy. All this activity created 16,000 jobs in the first three years of the program.
“Five years ago, critics were saying climate programs like RGGI couldn’t succeed in the U.S.,” said David Littell, Commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and Vice-Chair of RGGI, in a statement.
“Now, we are seeing significant emissions reductions in the context of economic recovery as we switch to cleaner fuels and learn to use energy smarter. In fact, RGGI has allowed companies to stay competitive and reduce their energy expenditures to weather the recession and come out stronger.”
In April, Environment New Jersey issued an analysis showing that states participating in RGGI reduced emissions 20 percent faster and grew GDP twice the rate of the rest of the U.S. through 2009. However, that report was not a completely accurate picture of the impact of RGGI, as it only took into consideration the first year of the program.