The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first regional market-based carbon dioxide (CO2) trading program in the United States.
A new report from Abt Associates, "Analysis of the Public Health Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, 2009–2014," shows that since 2009, RGGI has significantly reduced air pollution from fossil fuel power plants, improving the health of people living in the Northeast. Residents in this region are now experiencing significantly fewer premature deaths, heart attacks, and respiratory illnesses. Moreover, residents of neighboring states not specifically part of RGGI have also seen health benefits from the program.
Key findings from the report include:
- 300 to 830 lives saved;
- More than 8,200 asthma attacks avoided;
- 39,000 lost work days averted; and
- $5.7 billion in health savings and other benefits.
RGGI was launched by ten states in the Northeast: Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey to reduce carbon pollution.
The report provides rigorous, independent evidence that RGGI has been an economic and environmental success, with direct benefits to human health and states’ economies. These benefits also extend to neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“These results show that carbon trading programs like RGGI provide many benefits,” says Michelle Manion, Abt Senior Associate and lead author of the study. “RGGI is saving lives, improving health, and increasing productivity in the Northeast.”
While RGGI-driven health benefits are likely to level off in the future, this study also notes that the increasingly cleaner, more efficient electricity grid in the RGGI region will provide new opportunities for additional, substantial health benefits. As energy demand from other sectors – such as transportation and heating – shifts onto the cleaner grid in the Northeast states, similar added health benefits can be expected.