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Another Voice: New York State should lead the way in reducing carbon pollution

By Mark Kresowik

New York has always been at the forefront of innovative solutions when it comes to tackling big challenges, whether it be socially, economically or environmentally. Now, New York can again lead the Northeast, and the nation, as we work to curb climate disruption-causing carbon pollution.

Aggressive investments in clean energy, including offshore wind and the state’s linchpin role in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will help lead the way to a carbon-free clean energy future.

Simply put, RGGI has been a boon for New York and the region as a whole. Since 2009, states have already achieved public health benefits exceeding $10 billion, more than $2.9 billion in new economic value and more than 30,000 new job-years of work in the regional economy thanks to the program. Now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has an opportunity to build on his track record of leadership and success in clean energy and job creation throughout the state by setting an example for the other RGGI states to follow.

Last October, Cuomo stood by former Vice President Al Gore and pledged to cut carbon pollution in the state 40 percent and to source 50 percent of New York’s electric energy with renewables by 2030. Along with the Clean Energy Standard, a robust RGGI carbon reduction path will give the governor the tools he needs to make this a reality.

Currently, RGGI is exploring possible paths to reduce carbon pollution in the region through 2030. This process is critical to the economic future of the region as it charts a course for carbon pollution reduction that, inevitably, power producers in all RGGI states must meet. Initial analysis by Synapse Energy Economics shows that RGGI states must achieve at least a 5 percent reduction in carbon pollution from power plants annually from 2020 levels throughout 2030, well in line with the state’s own goals.

According to the Synapse report, achieving states’ 2030 goals would generate $2 billion in energy savings for consumers and create nearly 45,000 job-years throughout the state.

It is critical that New York continue as a leading voice for an RGGI carbon reduction plan that will help the region meet its goals while ensuring deeper investments in clean energy, energy efficiency and other critical programs. Critically, a strong commitment to carbon pollution reduction gives clean energy developers the market certainty they need to continue moving forward with large renewable energy projects in the region.

Cuomo has the opportunity to set the gold standard for the region in the struggle to turn back the clock on climate pollution, and now is the time to show the regional leadership that New York is known for.

Mark Kresowik is the eastern region deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

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