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The Obama administration is pressing for reductions of carbon dioxide from power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas in the U.S. Florida utilities are divided in their response to the initiative.

Today, representatives from nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are meeting in Baltimore to discuss how they will further cut carbon pollution. This decision will send a strong signal to the private sector that these states are committed to embracing the clean energy transition and will prove that lawmakers can work together to protect their economic future.

Maryland and eight other states plan to further tighten air pollution limits aimed at reducing global climate change

Amid a wave of climate dissent and rollbacks at the federal level, state and private sector leadership is needed now more than ever to find a way forward. The recent decision by nine governors to double down on cutting carbon is a win not only for the planet but also for the economy.

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We desperately need a cohesive national policy that harnesses American innovation and enterprise to fight the greatest environmental threat of our time.

After more than a year of deliberation, leaders of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have announced plans to extend and strengthen their carbon cap-and-trade program through 2030. The updated proposal would cut carbon pollution an additional 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

Since the program's inception in 2008, RGGI states have already achieved an impressive 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions at relatively low cost.

Northeast states, including Maryland, can help set U.S. on a proper direction on climate.

The program has garnered widespread support because of its market-friendly approach to cutting emissions and because it has proven invaluable in fostering economic growth. Over the past nine years, RGGI states have seen their carbon emissions decline more than other states while electricity prices have dropped and their economies have grown. By embracing the clean energy economy, RGGI states can attract new investments, good-paying jobs, and well-meaning businesses.

As a nonprofit organization that works with leading investors and businesses to build a more sustainable economy, Ceres' members recognize the value of RGGI and have supported the states' decision to extend and strengthen the program. The private sector seeks policies that provide certainty and predictability in the face of volatile fossil fuel prices and disruptions from climate change — and the strong market signal sent by RGGI's extension is just what businesses need.

The RGGI program began under bipartisan leadership, and it continues today with more than half of the member states led by Republicans. Gov. Larry Hogan and others demonstrate what the business community has known all along: that tackling climate change and fostering clean energy investments are good for the economy and our future.

In Maryland, RGGI is estimated to have created more than $240 million in net economic value. Quarterly RGGI auctions have generated more than $573 million for Maryland alone, which supports programs like EmPOWER Maryland that help businesses, low- to moderate-income households and others make energy efficiency upgrades to reduce their energy costs.

Timberland, a member of Ceres' Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) Network, is investing in clean energy because it's good for the economy and their bottom line. "Forward thinking policies like RGGI empower businesses to invest in our future while reducing costs and caring for our planet," says the company's sustainability director, Colleen Vien.

RGGI states are at the leading edge of a trend of state, regional and private sector leaders stepping up to fill the void of U.S. climate leadership. In California, lawmakers recently voted to extend their landmark cap-and-trade program, which has had immense success in achieving strong, cost-effective carbon reductions and is a model policy. Meanwhile, more than 2,300 cities, universities, businesses and investors have reaffirmed their commitment to reducing carbon emissions by pledging "We Are Still In" for achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The governors' decision to extend and strengthen RGGI deserves to be lauded. RGGI's success sets an example to neighboring states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, who can grow their own clean energy economies by joining up with RGGI. This pricing model can also prove exemplary for other sources of emissions such as the transportation sector, which has now surpassed electricity in carbon emissions.

Given immense opportunity for economic growth through the deployment of clean energy, it is encouraging to see RGGI-state governors step up and lead the way. The private sector will continue to stand behind states choosing to lead the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Anne Kelly is senior director of policy and the BICEP Network at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization working with investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Her email is kelly@ceres.org.

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