Further Evidence that Good Climate Policy Works – and Grows the Economy

Rooftop SolarHere at ecoAmerica we emphasize climate solutions in a big way because our research (American Climate Values 2014) says it’s necessary for people to understand that solutions exist in order to engage them on the issue. The general media covers climate change mostly from a scientific debate and political conflict frame, so most people either don’t know or are misinformed about the synergy between climate solutions and economic growth. Yet, in the real world, many hundreds of colleges and universities, major corporations, communities and even countries and continents are rapidly decarbonizing – on the path to a positive, carbon-pollution-free future.
One of the biggest myths about climate solutions is the falsehood perpetrated by legacy carbon interests that switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy hurts jobs and the economy. Their claim goes like this: renewable energy costs more and makes your business or your nation less competitive, therefore your economy tanks. And, by the way, if you’re a politician that opposes fossil fuels or supports renewable energy, we’ll call you a job killer and you’ll get voted out of office.
Americans are not fooled by this false choice. Republican or Democrat, urban or rural, young or old, Americans overwhelmingly support clean energy. We are becoming rapidly more concerned about climate change. And trends indicate that this concern about climate change will continue to accelerate in the coming years.
As America and the world rapidly deploy more clean, renewable energy and the facts pour in, the argument that this shift hurts the economy crumbles. Policies that tax carbon pollution and encourage the shift to renewables grow the economy and jobs. Here in North America, we have three large-scale examples to prove the point. British Columbia came up with a carbon tax in 2008, and the evidence mounts that it has radically reduced their carbon intensity while growing their economy. The cap-and-trade-based Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in America’s nine New England States shows the same results – a faster-growing economy with much less pollution.
Then we have another example from the other side of the nation, California – the world’s seventh largest economy all by itself. The state passed AB32 in 2006 and set up a cap-and-trade system. It took a couple of years to get the mechanics down and the actual trading didn’t start until 2012 – but major fossil-fuel producers and users knew it was coming and were prepared. Given that head start and now two years of actual implementation, the system is working well, but what about the actual results?
Environmental Defense Fund just released a comprehensive analysis showing that capped emissions are decreasing while state GDP is increasing, defying predictions from opponents that cutting emissions would hurt the economy. It can all be summed up in this one chart:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Graphs for British Columbia and New England’s climate policies show the exact same trend. Amidst all their efforts to control carbon pollution and stop global warming, their economies are growing. California has long been a leader in energy conservation and renewable energy – they get none of their energy at all from coal. And at the same time, their economy continues rocketing along.
So, the next time someone says that renewable energy costs jobs, ask them if they have any proof of that, any examples. Then, gently and politely point out the facts. The only way that the legacy carbon interests can keep us addicted to their dirty fossil fuels is to keep misleading us and hiding the truth.
Image credit: Roofjockey

4 Responses to “Further Evidence that Good Climate Policy Works – and Grows the Economy”

  1. I’m on your side with climate policy but I think the best we could say here is that implementation of cap and trade regs in CA didn’t slow down the state’s pre-existing upward trend in GDP. From your graph, that trend began years before.

  2. Hi Wendy.. that’s true, but keep in mind that the big carbon users we’re aware that the legislation was going into implementation years before the first auctions, so they were improving carbon efficiency before the law took effect.

  3. Vincent Pawlowski February 1, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Is there any research on which plans are most effective?
    Carbon price or quantity based plans?


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