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New York’s Bold Climate Plan Approved After Abt Analysis

Climate change is an irrefutable global challenge, but frontline impacts are often most effectively addressed where they occur: at regional, state, and local levels. Another irrefutable challenge? Finding the necessary funding to combat climate change, at any level of government. Recognizing the realities of both politics and climate change, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) knew implementation of the state’s ambitious Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) would depend on both an in-depth cost-benefit analysis and a co-benefit analysis. The Act mandates net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 and sets aside approximately $55 billion to meet that goal. NYSERDA hired Abt Global to determine the impact its Scoping Plan—the framework for achieving these goals—could have on public health benefits.

Crunching Numbers

Understanding that finances were both a practical and a political concern, Abt used our Climate HealthCounts(TM) framework to quantify the CLPCA’s anticipated public health benefits. The Act would cost approximately $55 billion, with a significant portion of those funds dedicated to offsetting GHG emissions by:

  • Financing 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects at $35 billion,
  • Spending $6.8 billion to reduce of buildings’ emissions, and
  • Investing more than $1 billion in clean transportation initiatives, more than $1.6 billion in state “Green Bank” commitments, and more than $1.8 billion in increased use of solar.

The state’s robust strategy required an equally robust analysis, but Abt had the benefit of having a process in place. “Since we’ve conducted this kind of analysis at the regional level for RGGI [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] and at the local level for New York City, we’ve already developed an efficient process to translate information from climate plans into tangible health benefits results,” explains Abt Project Director David Cooley.

Looking at the state’s goals, we estimated the extent to which it would result in a reduction of air pollutants—including PM2.5, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ammonia, and volatile organic compounds. The CLCPA would have other effects, such as improved indoor health due to residential energy efficiency programs, and plans to promote the benefits of walking and biking, so we calculated those impacts, too. We then modeled the extent to which those reductions would actually improve air quality. Next, we took a look at what the resulting health effects would be. Finally—and crucially—we estimated the monetary value of those effects, which included avoided hospitalizations, emergency department visits, work loss days, and even premature deaths.

Show Them the Money

All told, Abt estimated that the health benefits from the CLCPA had a monetary value of up to $170 billion, a $115 billion benefit after accounting for the plan’s costs. That was enough to get the CLCPA  approved for implementation by New York’s Climate Action Council, which means New York State can take its first steps toward a carbon-neutral future. David isn’t surprised. “Being able to actually analyze the health co-benefits of your climate plan allows you to show the full range of the plan and bolster support,” he explains. But, he adds, the analysis also further contextualizes the work. “For those stakeholders who believe that, because climate change is a global issue it’s not their problem, our analyses demonstrate that efforts at the regional, state, or local level can have beneficial impacts to the air quality and health in your own back yard.”

Climate HealthCountsTM can answer important questions for any state, but there’s one question it can’t answer: Why aren’t more states validating their climate plans? “We looked at 32 states with climate plans, and realized only three had conducted a similar analysis of the health benefits of their plans,” says David. “These kinds of studies can help galvanize valuable support, and they don’t break the bank.”

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