By Tim Anderson
From Maine to California, states are working and experimenting together on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These regional cap-and-trade approaches—one in the East, one in the Midwest and one in the West—are in different stages of development and vary in the type of emissions and sectors being targeted.
But these state-led efforts all share at least one thing in common: They are pioneering policy efforts in this country to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, they are also potentially shaping how the nation as a whole eventually addresses a key environmental and economic issue.
But several states—including his own—have decided regional action was better than none at all.
Cherry spoke to members of the Energy and Environmental Policy Task Force Dec. 5 during The Council of State Governments annual meeting about the ongoing 10-state effort in the northeast.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, better known as RGGI, is the first mandatory, market-based effort in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The northeast’s effort is further along than the two other regional initiatives that have been launched: The Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord and the Western Climate Initiative.
In September, RGGI held the first of what are expected to be quarterly auctions of allowances for carbon dioxide emissions. The auction was a major milestone for the program.
The initiative’s goal, Cherry said, is to first stabilize C02 emissions from the region’s power plants and then reduce them by 10 percent over the next decade. (The northeast initiative focuses solely on CO2 and the release of this gas from utilities).
“RGGI’s goals are very modest, so the costs aren’t that high,” he added.
Under RGGI, the total cap for carbon emissions in the 10-state region is currently set at 188 million tons; that limit will gradually be lowered beginning in 2015.
Along with giving utilities a financial incentive to cut pollution, the regional cap-and-trade system gives states the chance to invest more in their own energy programs. Nearly all of the RGGI states, for example, have decided to use the money from CO2 allowances to bolster energy-efficiency initiatives.