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Mandatory state policies work best to curb power plant emissions, study finds

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“Due to the current void in national leadership on the issue of climate change, efforts at the state and local level are more important than ever,” says Eri Saikawa, an assistant professor of Environmental Sciences. Saikawa is part of an Emory delegation to the U.N. Climate Change Conference talks in Bonn, Germany, which includes two faculty and 12 students.

U.S. state policies aimed at mitigating power plant emissions vary widely in effectiveness, finds a new study by researchers at Emory University.

Nature Climate Change published the analysis, which shows that policies with mandatory compliance are associated with the largest reductions in power plant emissions.

“Based on the results of our study, we recommend that states adopt a policy of mandatory greenhouse gas emissions registry and reporting for power plants,” says Eri Saikawa, an assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences. “We also found a significant impact in states that adopt public benefit funds aimed at energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. These two policies not only are effective in reducing power-plant emission levels but also emissions intensity.”  

Saikawa, an expert in public policy and the science of emissions linked to global warming, co-authored the study with Emory graduate Geoff Martin, whose thesis project focused on the topic. Martin received his master’s degree in environmental sciences in May and now works as an energy coordinator for the town of Hartford, Vermont.

Their findings were released today as the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP23) opens in Bonn, Germany. Delegates from around the world are gathering to hammer out details for meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The United States was among the 195 countries that committed to this framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — although the Trump administration has said it plans to withdraw from this historic accord.

“Due to the current void in national leadership on the issue of climate change, efforts at the state and local level are more important than ever,” Saikawa says. “U.S. cities and states need to step up and do what they can.”

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