Since the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was enacted in 2019, setting aggressive benchmarks for NY to reduce its carbon emissions, advocates have been pushing for a funding mechanism to ensure its implementation.
During the first week of the New Year and the start of the legislative calendar, New York state leaders have the opportunity to take an aggressive approach to tackling climate change and environmental issues.
Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her first state-of-state address on Wednesday, detailing her 2022 priorities for pandemic recovery and outlining specific pathways to make New York City the nation’s renewable energy capital. , and put the state on track to meet the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The landmark law, passed in 2019, requires New York to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, by 40% by 2030 and at least 85% by 2050.
“[Climate change] is a threat to our way of life here and now, ”Hochul said during his speech. “This is why we must and will implement a vicious program to respond to this time.”
Among its commitments is a pledge to invest $ 500 million in offshore wind technology, which the program says would create thousands of jobs and help fund the CLCPA’s target of generating nine gigawatts of power. wind turbine by 2035.
The investment will come as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) prepares to launch offshore wind projects this year, which are expected to generate enough energy to power 1.5 million people. homes, according to the governor’s plan. Hochul also announced its commitment to create an offshore wind network and to work with federal authorities to develop wind power and phase out peak power plants and old fossil-fueled plants.
In another shift away from fossil fuels to cut emissions, Hochul said she would pledge to electrify school buses by 2035 – a measure that had already been approved locally by New York City Council – and electrify the state’s light vehicle fleet. by that same year.
Since taking office in August following the ouster of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hochul has demonstrated his commitment to moving away from fossil fuels. In September, it gave the green light to two large-scale projects that would provide enough wind, hydro and solar power to power a third of New York City. And under his administration, two fracking gas-fired power plant projects were denied permits in October.
“Protecting our environment is personal to me,” Hochul said in his speech Wednesday, recalling growing up near then heavily polluted Lake Erie. “I was born in a time and place where orange smoke billowed from the factory chimneys, literally blocking the sky, with a horrible smell that I still remember to this day, while dumping toxic waste. in one of the largest in the world. freshwater lakes. I live surrounded by the causes of climate change. And now I live with the effects.
In a bold move, Hochul also pledged in the state of the state to ban natural gas connections in new construction statewide after 2027. on buildings less than seven stories tall by 2024. and on buildings taller than that by 2027.) In doing so, it has committed to complete 2 million homes electrified or ready for electrification – at least 800,000 of these are low-income households or moderate – by 2030.
“It’s very important that she came out in favor of a gasoline ban,” said Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch, an environmental watch group. “We haven’t done this in any state in the country.” Beauchamp added, however, that he would like to see the timeline brought forward, citing a proposed statewide legislation that would take effect next year.
But others were disappointed that Hochul’s agenda did not include a specific vision for financing the transition away from fossil fuels. New York Renews, a coalition of environmental groups, wants to see a commitment of $ 15 billion in the executive’s budget for climate, jobs and justice.
“We cannot respond to the climate crisis with proclamations, platitudes or pennies on the dollar,” the organization said in a statement after Hochul’s speech, adding that the governor missed the opportunity to explain how it would finance the aggressive targets set by the CLCPA. “New York needs billions of dollars to better protect and invest in our communities and deal with the reality of climate change. “
Although Hochul’s executive budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year is not revealed until later this month, the state of the state generally outlines the governor’s priorities for the coming year.
Since the CLCPA was enacted in 2019, advocates have been pushing for a funding mechanism to ensure its implementation.
One such measure is the Climate and Community Investment Bill (CCIA), which would impose a carbon tax on large polluters and channel part of that fund to environmental justice communities affected by the effects. of climate change. Lawmakers did not put the measure to a vote until the end of the session last summer, prompting environmentalists to hold a climatic funeral outside the State Capitol Building in Albany.
State lawmakers met again on Wednesday for the first time since June. They will have just under six months before the end of the session to review the CCIA, along with several other climate and environmental initiatives to respond to the state’s growing interest in tackling climate change.
Other measures under consideration this year include the Energy Efficiency, Equity and Employment Bill, which would require utility companies to hire people with disabilities, veterans, disadvantaged communities. or otherwise considered a priority population, as they transition to sanitation energy, and another measure that would regulate and reduce the environmental impact of data centers used for cryptocurrency transactions.
And later this year, voters will have the opportunity to vote on the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act, which would fund infrastructure improvements, flood mitigation and other climate initiatives. On Wednesday, the governor said she would increase the multi-year investment from $ 3 billion to $ 4 billion and include an initiative to modernize more than 1,000 underfunded public schools.
READ MORE: On the New York Ballot: Is a Healthy Environment a Constitutional Right?
Last November, voters in New York City approved a voting measure to include a right to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment in the state constitution’s bill of rights, which, according to advocates, makes it even more crucial that heads of state take an aggressive approach to just transition.
“Now that we have a mandated constitutional amendment guaranteeing all New York residents the right to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment, our lawmakers are charged with making the law a reality for the people. everyday throughout the state and we aim to get them to work for and for people, ”said Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.