Clean Energy & Climate Change

Clean Energy and Climate Change Fact Sheet

Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing humanity. Our heavy use of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, releases greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, where they trap heat and warm the planet, kicking off a chain of devastating impacts. CLF is finding innovative ways to mitigate climate change by reducing our region’s dependence on fossil fuels. These include promoting renewable energy development, advocating for energy efficiency and smart growth, working to responsibly shut down coal plants in New England, and assisting policy makers with climate change and clean vehicle legislation.

Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and certain types of biomass are critical to our energy future because they are naturally replenished and therefore sustainable. Still, all energy generation has impacts. In order to minimize impacts and harness New England’s rich renewable resources responsibly, CLF supports transparent, rigorous, public processes to evaluate projects and establish that the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. CLF is leading efforts to develop financial and policy incentives, such as renewable portfolio standards, that make renewable energy development possible, and advancing critical transmission upgrades to deploy this energy.

Of course, New England can reduce the amount of energy it needs by increasing efficiency. Using current technology, the region could reduce electricity use about 20 percent from projected demand by 2018, according to a recent report. To ensure that happens, CLF is reforming building codes and promoting decoupling and related reforms of utility compensation to remove barriers and create incentives for efficiency. In addition, better urban planning brings location efficiency, reducing the need to drive.

While building this new energy future, we can’t forget about the past. Fossil fuel power plants still dot New England’s landscape, emitting climate-warming carbon dioxide and many pollutants that harm human health. CLF is working to shut down dirty coal plants and block misguided new technologies with large carbon footprints, such as diesel generators and coal gasification.

The transportation sector is the region’s largest and fastest growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. CLF was instrumental in passing the Clean Cars legislation that has been adopted by all New England states, except New Hampshire, enforcing the strict automobile emissions standards California developed under the federal Clean Air Act. CLF is also working to “de-carbonize” liquid fuels via the regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a technology-neutral policy that will create a robust market for cleaner transportation fuels.

Finally, good policy is critical to reducing climate-warming emissions. CLF is ensuring enforcement of current laws, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first mandatory cap and trade program. CLF has been deeply involved in RGGI from the beginning and is now working to integrate it and other regional policies with state and federal programs.

CLF has a clear vision for how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that science tells us are necessary to protect our climate. By developing and implementing these forward-thinking policies, we can ensure that New England is doing all it can and setting an example for the nation.

Greg Cunningham, Acting Director, Clean Energy and Climate Change Program