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Wednesday
Mar012017

The New England states have an ongoing framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Here’s a rundown of regional and state goals

While much attention is given nationally to the topic of climate change, the six New England states have been working for more than 15 years to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions on both a regional and state level. The states are addressing climate policy through both legislative mandates and aspirational, non-binding goals.

Regional Goals

At their annual conference in 2001, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian premiers (NEG-ECP) announced that they would pursue non-binding GHG reduction goals over the short, mid, and long-term basis:

  • Reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 (goal has been met)
  • Reduce emissions by 10% below 1990 levels by 2020
  • Reduce emissions to at least 35% to 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 (added in a 2015 resolution)
  • Reduce emissions by 75% to 85% below 2001 levels by 2050

Their 2001 Climate Change Action Plan was the first international plan to present a long-term vision to address climate change within a region. The goals were based on those in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which both the United States and Canada were signatories. “Over the long term, anthropogenic GHG emissions must be reduced to levels that no longer pose a dangerous threat to the climate,” the Plan says. “The long-term goal will be modified as the understanding of climate science advances.”

State Goals

Since 2001, several New England states have passed laws or developed policies to move toward some form of economy-wide GHG reduction.

Mandated

 Aspirational

  • Maine: In 2003 set a goal to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020. The state also set a long-term goal to reduce emissions to a level that would be sufficient to “eliminate any dangerous threat to the climate.” To accomplish this goal, the law says, “reduction to 75% to 80% below 2003 levels may be required.”
  • New Hampshire: Wrote the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan in 2009 that calls for an 80% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Vermont: Set a goal in 2005 for a 75% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, “ Through the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan

Since 2015, five of the six New England Governors have signed a memorandum of understanding that seeks to limit global warming to below two degree (2°) Celsius; this is known as the Under 2 MOU. As signatories, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire supported reducing GHG emissions to 80% to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050.

In addition to their individual state goals and laws, all six New England states have been members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) since 2007. The first mandatory cap-and-trade program in the United States to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) in the power sector, RGGI is a tool for some of the states to invest resources in efforts such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Adding renewable energy to the mix of power system resources is part of the strategy employed by the states to reduce GHG emissions. In this regard, each of the New England states requires that, by specific dates, retail electricity sales comprise certain percentages of renewable energy generation. The chart below is a snapshot of state requirements for electricity providers to supply customers with specified amounts of renewable power in 2020.

ISO New England’s External Affairs team closely tracks energy policy initiatives and will continue to post updates on ISO Newswire.