All too often we hear how climate action will put a drag on economic growth. But in a new analysis of Baltimore’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), Center for Sustainable Economy demonstrates just how wrong that assumption really is. Once fully implemented, Baltimore’s Climate Action plan is likely to generate a significant boost to the City’s Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), an overall measure of economic wellbeing adopted in Maryland and now being road-tested in Baltimore.
Annual benefits are likely to range between $548 million and $720 million per year, an increase of 4 to 5% over a business as usual scenario. This means that if the CAP were in place today, Baltimore’s GPI could rise from $13.94 billion to as much as $14.66 billion each year. The most significant benefits will be generated by the reduced costs of greenhouse gas emissions and associated air and noise pollution. These benefits are likely to amount to nearly $358 million per year. Air and noise pollution benefits will be associated with a 25% reduction in vehicle miles traveled.
New transportation, water, and household infrastructure in the form of cool rooftops, solar panels, efficient appliances, weatherization, energy saving streetlights, bike lanes, and electric vehicles will generate between $129 million and $235 million in benefits per year. Income freed up by energy savings as well as income generated by new jobs will boost household spending and Baltimore’s GPI by $19 million to $36 million each year. New jobs will help push down the costs of underemployment by nearly $6.6 million. Other significant annual benefits will be associated with decreased dependence on fossil fuels ($17 million – $65 million), less traffic congestion ($13 million) and an enhanced urban tree canopy ($5.9 million – $7.4 million).
While most conventional economic metrics – like gross state product – overlook these important benefit categories, they are central to the GPI and central to the concept of economic wellbeing. This is why the State has established the GPI as an important measure of economic performance, and why CSE is working with the City of Baltimore to establish its own local variant. Once formally in place, and as demonstrated in our CAP analysis, Baltimore’s GPI can be an important tool for informing major policy initiatives such as those related to living wages, climate, stormwater, and infrastructure. The GPI can also serve as a guide for setting budget priorities that maximize economic wellbeing for Baltimore’s residents.