Leibowitz: Greenhouse Gas plan needs more initiative

Don't blow it: New York and the other states forming the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have a great opportunity to take the environmental bull by the horns, according to Environment New York Director Heather Leibowitz.

On Aug. 23, nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states announced a proposal to cut power plant pollution by at least 30 percent between 2021 and 2030, strengthening what is already the best regional clean-air and climate-protection program in the country, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

But while states are moving in a positive direction, the proposal falls short of what’s needed to truly tackle the climate crisis.

This program 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.

We urge the leaders of these states to strengthen the proposal in the coming weeks, so that we can fully realize the promise of clean energy and demonstrate even more leadership on climate.

Every day, it becomes even more clear that the impacts of global warming are accelerating. Last year marked the hottest ever recorded in human history, breaking records set in 2015 and 2014. The Northeast is warming faster than any other region in the United States, except for Alaska, and we’re feeling the effects – from severe drought taking its toll on the iconic dairy farms of New Hampshire to stronger and stronger storms battering the Coney Island boardwalk.

Globally, we must reduce emissions from all sources to zero – ideally, within the next 25 years. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are in a position to do much more, and they should.

Heather Leibowitz: RGGI good, not great.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has been a huge success so far, proving that states can work together across geographic and partisan boundaries to reduce pollution, grow clean energy and deliver important benefits for everyone. Environment New York’s recent report, Doubling Down on Climate Progress, summarizes the benefits already achieved, including cutting power plant pollution in half since 2005 and generating $2.7 billion for states to invest in clean-energy, energy-efficiency and other consumer-benefit programs.

We know RGGI works. Making the program more ambitious is the right thing to do. And we can take it even further than the states proposed this week – cutting even more pollution, faster.

We urge the governors of the nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to strengthen the proposal in the coming weeks, so that we can fully realize the promise of clean energy and demonstrate even more environmental leadership. Our climate can’t wait.

Ms. Leibowitz, Esq., is the director of Environment New York, a statewide advocacy organization.