Hawaii and New Jersey Laws Set Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reductions

States Continue to Lead in Absence of Federal Action

The legislatures of Hawaii and New Jersey both recently passed laws specifying mandatory greenhouse gas reductions, joining California (see previous post) as the second and third states in the nation, respectively, to enact mandatory greenhouse gas laws.

Eleven other states have set greenhouse gas reduction targets and four of them – Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon (see upcoming post) – passed legislation this year setting those reduction targets in state statute, according to this CDM Knowledge Center update on state greenhouse gas laws and actions. The other state targets were issued by governor’s executive order.

Like California’s similarly named law, Hawaii’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007 (HB 226 CD1), declares that the state shall reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels “at or below” 1990 levels by 2020, an estimated 25-30% cut over business-as-usual projections and a roughly 15% cut over current emissions levels.

The bill, calls for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to update greenhouse gas emission estimates for the base-line year of 1990 and to estimate current emissions. It also establishes a 10-member greenhouse gas emissions reduction task force to draft “practical, technically feasible and cost-effective” ways to do achieve the reductions targets by the end of 2009 and appropriates a half a million dollars in fiscal 2008 and 2009 to pay for necessary departmental and committee work.

The law specifies that rules establishing greenhouse gas emissions limits necessary to meet the 2020 target must be adopted by December 31st, 2011, with monitoring and enforcement of these rules beginning January 1st, 2012.

The bill passed the Hawaii legislature with strong, bi-partisan support, passing by a 48-2 margin in the House and 23-2 in the Senate, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Jeff Mikulina, state Sierra Club director and a proponent of the legislation, called global climate change “the greatest threat to Hawaii’s prosperity” and “truly the greatest challenge of our generation.”

The Legislature’s approval is “making a promise to future generations that we’re serious about addressing this critical issue,” Mikulina said.

Hawaii’s Governor Linda Lingle signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007 into law on June 30th, Green Car Congress reports [although I can't find a press release on the signing; the Governor had until July 10th to sign the law, veto it, or let it become law without her signature].

New Jersey’s Governor Jon S. Corzine signed a similar greenhouse gas reduction law on Friday, July 7th.

The legislation, the Global Warming Response Act of 2007 (A 3301) also sets a mandatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions not to exceed 1990 levels by 2020, a roughly 20% reduction [over current emissions levels I believe, although this could be business-as-usual 2020 levels; the press release is unclear].

The Act also sets a longer-term target of an 80% reduction in emissions below 2006 levels by 2050, making New Jersey the first state to enact a long-term greenhouse gas emissions limit.

The legislation tasks the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to work with the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and other stakeholders to evaluate methods to meet and exceed the 2020 target reductions.

The Department of Environmental Protection is also charged with establishing rules and regulations establishing a greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and reporting program to monitor and report Statewide greenhouse gas emissions no later than January 1st, 2009. DEP will report progress towards the target reductions to the Governor and the Legislature no less than every two years and if necessary will recommend additional actions to reach the targets.

To further reduce emissions, the order calls for the Director of Energy Savings to develop targets and implementation strategies for reducing energy use by state facilities and vehicles fleets.

“In the absence of leadership on the federal level, the burden of reducing greenhouse gases has now fallen upon the states,” Governor Corzine said in a press release. “I’m proud that New Jersey is one of the first among a handful of states that are leading the nation to combat global warming and I hope more states will follow in our model.”

[Table source: Green Car Congress]

States continue to out pace the federal government on taking action against the climate crisis.

In addition to these greenhouse gas reduction targets and requirements, 16 states (and two Canadian province) have partnered to develop regional initiatives to cap and trade emissions from the electricity sector.

Ten Northeastern states have partnered to form the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which aims to establish a regional program that would cap and then begin to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector 10% below current levels by 2019, roughly the same as 1990 levels and a 35% reduction over business-as-usual electricity-sector emissions projections (see previous posts here and here).

RGGI has developed a model rule that partner states can adopt to cap electricity sector emissions and participate in a trading program with other RGGI states.

Maine has already adopted legislation authorizing participation in RGGI’s cap and trade program, according to CDM’s Knowledge Center. The other states must enact authorizing legislation before the RGGI cap and trade program takes effect on January 1st 2009.

While the program initially only applies to the electricity sector, it may be extended to cover other major sources of emissions in the future.

Not to be outdone by the Northeastern states, a partnership of six Western states also formed this year to tackle climate change and develop a regional cap and trade program on electricity-sector emissions.

Originally launched in February 2007 with five members (see previous post), with the inclusion of British Columbia, Manitoba and Utah, the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative (WRCAI) now includes six Western states and two Canadian provinces, making it an international partnership.

Each partner state or province has agreed to identify, evaluate and implement ways to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region. The initiative requires partners to set an overall regional goal to reduce emissions, develop a market-based, multi-sector mechanism to help achieve that goal – i.e. a regional cap and trade program – and participate in a cross-border greenhouse gas (GHG) registry. 31 states plus British Columbia and Manitoba launched the GHG registry in May (see previous post).

At this point, the WRCIA states lag behind the RGGI states in developing a concrete cap and trade proposal, although with California leading the way, most of the WRCIA states are pursuing or have already enacted renewable energy standards (see previous posts here and here), regulations on vehicle tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions (see previous posts here, here, and here), emissions performance standards (see previous post here) and other policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from key sectors (see previous post here).

It is likely that that WRCIA states will link their carbon market with the RGGI states (see previous post and perhaps with other European countries (see ) participating in cap and trade programs as part of their implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

In addition to these actions, 12 states have now adopted California-style tailpipe emissions standards for greenhouse gases (see previous post) and 23 states now have renewable portfolio standards requiring utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy in their electricity mix (see previous posts here and here).

[Image: Twelve states (dark green) have now joined California in enacting tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks. Five more (yellow) are actively considering joining. (Click to enlarge).]

While federal climate change legislation is clearly a high priority and will ultimately be both more impacting and likely more effective than a collection of state or regional actions, these proactive state efforts to lead the way ahead by enacting policy solutions to the climate crisis should not be dismissed. As this previous post illustrates, states have emissions footprints as large as many other countries, and their actions are not insignificant.

Furthermore, these state actions help drive federal action by serving as ‘laboratories of democracy’ and create sizable markets that move businesses to develop new products (like efficient cars and trucks).

They may also ultimately encourage federal action in another way: by encouraging large business players to push for standardized federal legislation to preempt a patchwork of state policies. There has already been evidence of this phenomenon as business interests are advocating for a nationwide, economy-wide cap and trade policy that would preempt or replace state and regional policies mandating emissions reductions.

Congress is expected to take up climate change legislation this fall.


  • CDM Knowledge Center “Regulatory Update: Status of State Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets, Legislation, and Advisory Commissions“, July 1st 2007
  • 16 Responses to “Hawaii and New Jersey Laws Set Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reductions”

    1. 1 yochi Jul 10th, 2007 at 2:27 pm

      well researched and written post. thanks!

    2. 2 Angela Silberberger Jul 11th, 2007 at 1:44 am

      This is great information for those of us actively trying to elicit change in the system. I’m pulling a presentation together to recommend that Newark Public Schools adopt Will Steger’s Global Warming 101 curriculum which also has the support of National Geographic. It helps knowing the State of New Jersey is really coming out strong against Global Warming. I hope the district will jump in with both feet. Thanks for the information!

    3. 3 henderson-mills Jul 11th, 2007 at 1:51 am


    4. 4 Lynne Norris Jul 11th, 2007 at 1:56 am

      While New Jersey’s laws to reduce greenhouse emissions is commendable it worth bringing to light the shell game that is being played with regards to the utilities and the supposed requirement that they purchase SREC’s. Solar Renewable Energy Certificates are supposed to be purchased by the utilites from homeowners and business that have chosen to invest in a solar electric system. This is part of the financial incentive for homeowners and business to “go green” in the Garden State.

      Under the current laws, it is more advantageous to the utilities to pay fines rather than purchase SREC’s. So while hard working business owners and homeowners dig into their own pockets to decrease their carbon imprint the utilities have no incentive to participate in purchasing the SREC’s. Once again, the government has passed laws that have no teeth and it is the tax and rate payors who are suffering for it.

      Lynne Norris

    5. 5 shirl Jul 11th, 2007 at 2:26 am

      THANK YOU!!!

    6. 6 E Uva Jul 11th, 2007 at 8:29 am

      Hopefully, the rest of the country will follow suit. The fact that the initiative had to come from state and provincial levels of government is indicative of how both countries’ federal governments are out of touch with reality.

    7. 7 Nancy C Jul 11th, 2007 at 11:16 am

      Thank you for this information about progress!! Now I can put more pressure on my state to follow in the foot steps of NJ and Hawaii!!

    8. 8 Yi-Ping Jul 13th, 2007 at 12:33 am

      That was awesome and very detailed! :]

    9. 9 Dawn Jul 16th, 2007 at 3:05 pm

      It’s nice to see New Jersey take a leadership role in this.

    10. 10 Concerned Jul 16th, 2007 at 11:24 pm

      I am glad to see that the West and East and in some cases the midwest have enacted bills to help fight emissions and a rise in global temperature, though I still think politicians are liars and i hate to say it, but i’ll believe them when i see it, and from then on, i’ll continue to do my part, however little it may be. furthermore, i think they could do a lot, and i mean a lot more and it upsets me that this is the only progress the U.S. is making right now. i don’t want to be a negative nancy, but…i am on this one!

    11. 11 Amy Jul 30th, 2007 at 6:43 am

      I just want to know why it is that New Jersey municipalities seem to be getting green by using solar powered signs (the radar ones “your current speed is …” and mobile electric construction signs) and yet every time a street light or traffic light is replaced or installed the state insists on still using ones tied into the grid.

    12. 12 lizveazey Jul 30th, 2007 at 4:42 pm

      Jesse–you can now add Florida to the list of states with GHG emission reduction goals. The governor issued an executive order earlier this month making Florida the first Southern state with GHG reductions goals.

      Amy–New Jersey has some of the best support for solar in the nation! however, putting up small solar panels on every street light and traffic light would be extremely expensive and require a lot of maintenance. it would be better and more efficient to use fewer and more efficient (LED) lights that are tied into a more localized grid that is powered by the sun and the wind.

    13. 13 lizveazey Jul 30th, 2007 at 4:45 pm

      ok, I guess Jesse has already heard about Florida. see his post here

    14. 14 Jim Egged Aug 6th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

      Kudos for Hawaii’s (Republican) Governor Linda Lingle she has demonstrated with her willingness to cooperate with a Democratic legislature that this is not a partisian issue. This is an issue for all of humanity. The republicans that create partisianship on this cannot see beyond the next election and the protection of those who protect their jobs. When are our government leaders going to see that there are more important things in life than the next election?

    15. 15 James Egged Aug 6th, 2007 at 1:31 pm

      When will money cease to be the primary reason for us to use to not do anything about protecting our environment. The bottom line is that we are the stewards of our planet and of course we are a part of the evolutionary process that takes place here. That does not mean that can continue to head in the direction that we as the current dominant species on the planet are taking the process. We may never get the opportunity to finally mature as a species at this rate.

    16. 16 jessejenkins Aug 6th, 2007 at 4:26 pm

      Jim, you ask two interesting questions: 1) when will elected officials see there are more important things than getting re-elected; and 2) when will money stop influencing politics?

      Well, the short answer to both of those questions is “probably never!”

      The longer answer is, elected officials will always be concerned with getting re-elected. That’s part of their job! That’s a reality we need to keep in mind. The only way to get around this problem and make sure our elected officials – republican and democrat alike – concentrate on solving the climate crisis is to make sure their jobs depend on it! That’s exactly the message folks like ClimateVoters.org is trying to send to Congress, and it’s a message the youth climate movement needs to be sending loud and clear as well: “we’re young, we vote, and we’re voting for climate solutions and for our future.”

      As far as getting money out of politics goes, that’s a much harder challenge, but one that is well worth pursuing. Real campaign finance reform has been the holy grail of progressives for decades. Despite little positive progress over the years, the benefits of reforming the role of money in politics make it worth our continued pursuit, and this is something we should also keep in mind as we pursue our climate solutions campaigns. Solving the climate crisis will mean a drastic change from the status quo – the creation of a new energy future – and as with any change, vested interests have made plenty of money on the status quo and will defend it fiercely. The influence of money on politics therefore means our challenge is that much harder, as vested interests – big businesses, oil and coal interests, etc. – have a louder voice than ‘we the people’ when it comes to money and campaign contributions.

      Good thing there’s plenty more of us than there are of them, and the answer to your first question may just hold the key to overcoming the barriers of the second. After all, there’s two kinds of political power: money and people. Let’s do our best to diminish the power of the former while bolstering our numbers and strengthening the power of the latter.

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    About Jesse

    Jesse Jenkins is an energy and climate policy analyst, advocate, and blogger. Jesse is the Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, California, where he works to develop and advance new energy solutions to power America's future, secure our energy freedom, and halt global warming. He joined Breakthrough in June 2008 and previously directed the Breakthrough Generation fellowship program for young clean energy leaders. Jesse worked previously as a Research and Policy Associate at the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, OR, helping to advance the development of the Pacific Northwest's abundant renewable energy potential. A prolific author and blogger on clean energy issues, Jesse is the founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary, a featured writer and advisory board member at the Energy Collective, and a frequent contributor at Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and Grist.org.

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