The Case for State Climate Action: Now more than ever

November 28, 2016
Skiers hiking to Tuckerman Ravine
E. PedersenSkiers hiking to Tuckerman Ravine

There may be lots of changes coming our way when it comes to national clean air and climate policies. On the campaign trail president-elect Trump indicated he will take the U.S. out of the Paris Climate agreement and even repeal the Clean Power Plan that is slated to reduce our nation’s power plant greenhouse gas emissions 32% by 2030. Comments by the incoming President that climate change is a hoax indicates potential for a monumental slide backwards and an uncertain future.

AMC supports the overwhelming body of science demonstrating that human-caused climate change is real and a serious threat. It is already impacting our weather, and it has costly consequences that will be even greater if we do nothing.

While the path to address climate change under the incoming Administration is still murky, it is clear that homegrown state initiatives like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are ever more important. RGGI not only has a solid environmental track record, but has demonstrated that addressing carbon emissions is economically beneficial too.

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For eight years this successful market-based program has resulted in reduced carbon emissions, increased job growth, and fostered renewable and energy efficiency investments. The leadership of the RGGI states should be applauded.  And now more than ever RGGI states must continue to lead and make substantial progress on reducing greenhouse gases moving forward.

States participating in RGGI
States participating in RGGI

How does RGGI work? Under the program, the nine participating states set an overall limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that power plants may release (the cap). Plants then bid on permits to cover their emissions, sell their permits if they come in under the limit, or purchase more to emit more carbon dioxide (the trade).

This cap-and-trade system creates a financial incentive to avoid buying additional emission permits. And the permit purchases generate revenue for each state to invest in energy efficiency, clean energy, and support for impacted communities.

Over time, the cap is lowered, gradually increasing the cost of purchasing the permits to pollute, and speeding up reductions in emissions. Read more here.

The program is under review in 2016. AMC and our many partners around the northeast are recommending that states should reduce the cap 5% annually, starting in 2020, as they extend the program another 10 years to further reduce emissions and meet 2030 climate goals.  As national leadership is unclear, we are urging RGGI states to continue to be our shining headlamp on a trail of uncertainty.

AMC will continue to do its part in tackling climate change as well, from solar power on our facilities to protecting forests in the Maine Woods.

Now is the time for joining together to lead in protecting clean air and water, preserving public lands, and educating others on the benefits of connecting with the outdoors. Let your Governors and state climate officials know that you believe in their efforts to keep RGGI moving forward and encourage them to put forth a strong and robust RGGI update.

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Georgia Murray

Conservation and Nature Notes blogger Georgia Murray has been AMC's Air Quality Staff Scientist since 2000. She has an M.S. degree in Earth Sciences from the University of New Hampshire and currently oversees the AMC's air quality and climate monitoring programs.