One of the Most Ambitious Climate Action Plans in the World Is Taking Place In New York State

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by Alex Patel and Miro Korenha

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a landmark climate change bill in New York state is awaiting signature by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  The act would slash New York’s carbon emissions 85% below 1990 levels by 2050 and use alternative measures to remove the remaining 15% of atmospheric carbon dioxide (such as tree-planting or carbon capture). By effectively creating a net-zero economy this legislation would undoubtedly put New York on the map as a global leader on climate action.  

What’s To Be Done: New York currently gets about 60 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources, mostly hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants and some wind and solar, but needs to transition to 70% by 2030 and be entirely carbon-free a decade later to reach the goals set by this bill. To meet its new targets, the state plans to construct massive offshore wind turbines, ramp up rooftop solar programs and install large new batteries.

Green Jobs: While bearing heavy costs in its implementation, this bill is predicted to create 200,000 jobs in the next decade within the green industry. More specifically, this bill is dedicating 35 percent of the state’s clean energy funds towards investment in environmentally vulnerable low-income communities – $370 million in this past fiscal year. This bill is not just confronting the current trend of climate inaction within America but is also tackling racial injustice and environmental racism.

An Uphill Battle: From 1990 to 2015, New York has only been able to reduce its emissions by 8%. Industrial facilities, residential homes, office buildings, the transportation system, and the approximately 10 million cars, trucks and buses within the state must all become notably cleaner for New York to become a net-zero economy.

  • Around one-quarter of emissions come just from residential and commercial buildings. The estimated cost for building owner to comply with these new laws is estimated to exceed $4 billion.
  • Transforming vehicle emissions is a major challenge as the Trump administration has made it their mission to roll back federal vehicle efficiency rules and make it harder for individual states to impose stricter standards.
  • Capital flight is also a major concern, as many see the potential for companies to move their operations in the face of rising costs of production and electricity prices – especially for small businesses. However, companies have the means to attain renewable energy and be a part of the solution.

Why This Matters: The federal government has often been slow to act on the adoption of renewable energy, but currently progress has ground to a halt. This bill will be critical in giving renewable energy a pathway to flourish in the Northeast. If it passes, New York will follow in the footsteps of Maine, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, California, and New Jersey, all of which have passed substantive clean energy policies recently-as has Hawaii has had its 100 percent renewables target in place since 2015. The more states that are encouraged to pass similar legislation, the more renewable energy will be solidified as a primary source of energy generation.

 

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