Massachusetts must fill void left by U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement (Guest viewpoint)

Op-ed by Daniel Sosland and Peter Rothstein in Mass Live.

Since President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, business leaders, environmental organizations and public officials across the nation have expressed concern for the impact on our climate and economy. The momentum we’ve achieved in building our nation’s renewable and clean energy sector must now be picked up by forward-looking states, cities and businesses around the country. Massachusetts is in a unique position to be a leader in this effort.

Massachusetts has a long history of using policy to bolster renewable and advanced clean energy deployment and innovation. Massachusetts was one of the first states in the nation to enact a comprehensive regulatory program to address climate change with 2008’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Last year, the Commonwealth built upon this leadership with the Energy Diversity Act, supporting offshore wind and other clean energy generation.

These progressive policies and investments in the state’s growing clean energy hub have paid off with strong economic results. A report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center found that the Commonwealth’s clean energy economy currently employs more than 105,000 people at over 6,700 companies, representing $11.8 billion in investment.

We know the policy tools and technologies needed to reduce climate pollution and accelerate clean energy adoption. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 shows that deploying a range of market-ready consumer technologies such as electric vehicles and efficient heat pumps to warm and cool buildings can deliver deep emissions reductions over the next 13 years when paired with policies to clean up the power grid.

A report from NECEC found that strengthening one of these policies – a requirement for utilities to purchase clean energy under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – would create thousands of jobs across the region, lower wholesale electricity prices and put us on track to meet our ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Boosting the RPS will also provide long-term market stability and position the Commonwealth to build on its strengths in innovation and advanced manufacturing to capture a significant part of the trillion-dollar global clean energy market.

Massachusetts also needs to modernize its energy grid to support the growth of renewables and empower consumers and communities to control energy usage and costs by adopting clean technologies. Customers need to be provided with information on building energy usage to inform decisions. Barriers to electric vehicles, clean heating technologies and solar energy (in the form of net metering caps) must be removed. And policies must make the benefits of these technologies accessible to all consumers, including low-income families. Pricing carbon will unleash the power of the market to reduce emissions, particularly in the transportation sector, which is now Massachusetts’ largest source of climate pollution. For new and promising technologies such as energy storage, meaningful targets must be paired with enforcement mechanisms and tax incentives to speed deployment.

Policymakers are not solely responsible for driving the clean energy economy. The private sector recognizes that renewable energy is not only good for the planet – it’s good for a company’s bottom line. Renewable energy saved Boston-area hospitals $15 million in just a four-year period – enough to pay for 1,357 of the state’s Medicare enrollees. Big energy consumers like Cambridge-based cloud computing service Akamai are choosing renewables, which will power half the company’s global network operations by 2030.

Here in Massachusetts, we’ve already shown the rest of the country and the world what we can do when city and state governments work hand-in-hand with the business community and the support of the public to pursue clean and cost-effective energy solutions. Given the diminishing support from the federal government to advance a clean energy future, we must work even harder to implement smart energy policies at the state and regional level that grow jobs, drive regional competitiveness and build on the Northeast’s reputation as a clean energy and climate leader. With the leadership void left by our federal government, this work is more important than ever.

Peter Rothstein is president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.

Daniel Sosland is president of Acadia Center.

Northeast States Talk Big On Climate. This Is Their First Serious Test.

“What we gain in return for that marginal additional cost is that we avoid 99 million [short] tons of CO2 emissions” from 2017 to 2031, Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the Boston-based Acadia Center, told HuffPost. “That’s more than a full year’s worth of emissions for this region. If the states are serious about acting on climate, they can’t ignore those kinds of emissions reductions at that low a cost.”

Read the full article from the Huffington Post here.

Greens fear momentum loss in 9-state climate pact

Peter Shattuck, director of the Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative, said the decision has become increasingly important in the wake of President Trump’s announcement of the United States leaving the Paris Agreement.

An Acadia Center study found that emissions in the RGGI region fell by 37 percent after 2008, the year the program was instituted, while electricity prices fell by more than 3 percent.

“I think they need to follow through on the commitments they’ve made on climate change,” Shattuck said. “This is now an issue of global importance.”

Read the full article from E&E News here (article may not be available without subscription). 

Mass. joins other states to fulfill US pledges on carbon

“Massachusetts and other RGGI states now have an opportunity to recommit to climate leadership by strengthening the program to deliver deep reductions in carbon pollution,” said Peter Shattuck, director of the Acadia Center in Massachusetts, an environmental advocacy group.

Read the full article from the Boston Globe here.

Here’s what some are saying about Trump’s decision to pull out of Paris Climate Agreement

Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, a nonprofit: “The Northeast region has successfully proven the benefits of pursuing a clean energy, low polluting economy: states have reduced climate pollution while enjoying greater economic growth, job creation and public health benefits. This significant progress on clean energy under both Republican and Democratic leadership at the state and federal level serves as a prime example of what is possible across the nation.”

Read the full article from Mainebiz here.

State and Regional Climate Action Critical as the Trump Administration Turns Its Back on a Clean Energy Future

BOSTON — Today, as President Donald Trump announces he will pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, Acadia Center is calling for redoubled action at the state and local level to counter the damaging effects of this move by the administration. Studies, including a recent report by Acadia Center, show that the states have the capacity to build a low-carbon energy system that empowers consumers and advances economic growth. As the federal government increasingly turns against consumer-friendly climate policies, the states must act to advance this clean energy future.

“The economic and environmental future of the United States depends upon growing a clean energy economy,” stated Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “Advancing clean energy technologies improves public health, lowers energy costs, makes the U.S. more energy independent, keeps energy dollars here at home, builds jobs in this booming industry and reduces climate pollution. While the Trump Administration’s decision to leave this historic multi-national agreement will disadvantage the U.S. economically and cede leadership of the clean energy economic powerhouse to China, India and other nations—state, regional and community leadership can and must fill the gap left by this ill-informed decision,” Sosland said.

“The Northeast region has successfully proven the benefits of pursuing a clean energy, low polluting economy: states have reduced climate pollution while enjoying greater economic growth, job creation and public health benefits. This significant progress on clean energy under both Republican and Democratic leadership at the state and federal level serves as a prime example of what is possible across the nation.”

From increasing investments in energy efficiency that reduced energy bills to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Northeast’s cap-and-invest program to reduce climate pollution, states have acted to embrace the clean energy future through regional cooperation. Since 2008, RGGI has helped the region reduce emissions nearly 40% and supported over $2 billion in clean energy programs that have allowed consumers to save billions in energy costs as well as from avoided health costs associated with emissions.

Acadia Center’s recent analysis of the Northeast’s energy system, EnergyVision 2030, shows that the states can achieve a clean energy future for all of their residents and dramatically reduce emissions by embracing available technologies. If states follow the recommendations in EnergyVision 2030, they will reduce emissions 45% by 2030 and be on track to cut emissions 80% by 2050—roughly the same target with which the U.S. was set to comply under the Paris accord.

Media Contacts:
Dan Sosland, President, 207-236-6470

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director, 617-742-0054 x107