Greens Oppose Push to Weaken Emission Accounting in CLCPA
Renew Call to Enact a Carbon Tax rather than Cap-and-trade (invest)
The Green Education and Legal Fund (GELF) called today for New York state to enact a carbon tax rather than the cap-and-trade (invest) program pushed by Governor Hochul.
While GELF described the Parker bill as “a gift to the fossil fuel industry,” it said that a carbon tax would eliminate the proponents’ stated concern that using the best science on calculating the impact of emissions from methane (e.g., natural gas) would interfere with their desire to link up with cap-and-trade carbon markets in other states.
“Even Pope Francis has come out against cap-and-trade as leading to exploitation by the Wall Street markets. Opposition to cap-and-trade in California by environmental justice (EJ) groups was so strong that it forced President Biden to withdraw the EPA nomination of the head of the Cal. Air Resources Board. New York lawmakers need to stand up to the fossil fuel donations and be clear that our state is ending the use of fossil fuels. We should have long ago made polluters pay for the annual $30 billion-plus cost that our state alone experiences from burning fossil fuels,” said Mark Dunlea, chair of GELF and author of Putting Out the Planetary Fire (carbon pricing chapter).
GELF’s memo of opposition to the Parker / Barrett bill stated: “We need to preserve the 20-year accounting standard in the CLCPA, which requires that the amount of methane, a fossil fuel, be counted in the state total emissions based on the scientific evidence that methane has more than 80 times the negative climate impact of carbon in the first 20 years. Methane emissions account for about one-quarter of the global warming effect today and have been surging since 2007; accurately accounting for their impacts is necessary to reducing and mitigating those impacts.”
GELF also opposes the bill’s subsidies for biomass, labeling them a false climate solution. Some of the negative impacts of biomass and biofuels were included in the state Climate Scoping Plan.
As is often the case with such bills, Governor Hochul has changed her stated reason for this favor for the gas industry as one justification after another is proven incorrect. Hochul had argued that recognizing that methane is more potent during its first 20 years as a greenhouse gas would cause problems with accessing funds under the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Climate experts, including Sen. Schumer’s office, says this is incorrect. Hochul has also argued that without weakening the emission reduction goals, the cost of her cap-and-invest proposals would be passed on to customers. While totally unclear how weakening the emission rules would address such an issue, alternatives include rebating more of the revenues from any carbon pricing as well as enacting the Climate Superfund proposal.
GELF also warned against allowing this push by the fossil fuel industry to gut the CLCPA to divert attention from the urgent need to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the state. GELF urged lawmakers to include the strongest climate budget measures pending at the Capitol, including the Climate Jobs and Justice package pushed by NY Renews. Needed actions include creating a dedicated climate fund for revenues (such as from cap-and-invest) while also ensuring that EJ funding goals are met; All Electric Buildings (2024 timeline if not earlier); Build Public Renewables Act (include labor provisions and democratization of New York Power Authority (NYPA); more municipal power); and decarbonization of all state buildings though with a timeline closer to 2030 than 2040; 100% Renewable Capitol (3-year timeline, includes plaza); and divesting fossil fuels from the NYS Teacher’s Retirement System.
“The world is out of time to take radical action to avoid climate collapse. They are still debating band-aids at the Capitol 4 years after the CLCPA was adopted, as the fires and floods of global warming are rapidly spreading. A state like New York, where the Republicans have no power, needs to provide leadership in responding to the climate emergency. We need dramatic, all-hands-on-board action to show the world that we can respond to global warming to help future generations while protecting the well-being of our communities, workers, and residents,” added Dunlea.
The Greens urged lawmakers to commit to raising $15 billion a year, starting in this year’s state budget, to assist with the climate transition. This includes providing several billion dollars a year in subsidies to residents to purchase air heat pumps, renewable energy upgrades, etc. GELF supports making the polluters pay with a robust carbon tax (and targeted rebates to most families), as well as the Climate Superfund Act that would raise $3 billion annually from the largest greenhouse emitters. It supports Sen. Kruger’s legislation to end $300 million of the $1.4 billion in annual subsidies provided to the fossil fuel industry by the state. GELF said it supported the many proposals to make the wealthy pay a fairer share of state taxes, including a halt to the annual rebate to Wall Street speculators of the ten billion dollars plus Stock Transfer Tax.
GELF has long pointed out that many of the climate policies in the CLCPA reflect policy positions agreed to before the Paris COP in 2014 began to lower the warming target to 1.5 degrees C rather than 2. And just last week once again the UN and the IPCC warned that the world’s governments (i.e., New York) were moving far too slowly to avoid warming the planet by the mid-2030s beyond the 1.5-degree target. While the CLCPA’s emission reduction targets are weaker than the worldwide goals proposed by the IPCC, the IPCC admits that its reduction goals are far too weak to keep warming below the target. Thus they propose massive investments (probably trillions) in carbon capture technology even though scientists admit that decades of research and tens of billions in investment have failed to show it is viable.
GELF said it recognized that most climate activists were grudgingly going along with cap-and-invest, since its support by the Governor makes it more likely it would be enacted and begin (someday) to provide some of the urgently needed climate funds. Groups like NY Renews are pushing for a series of reforms to protect EJ and disadvantaged communities from being harmed, which is normally the case with other cap-and-trade programs. California has seen an increase in emissions in EJ communities under their program. The Congressional Research Service found that NY’s existing cap-and-trade program, RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), had not been effective in reducing emissions, though the use of permit revenues to fund renewables had been beneficial.
GELF said that in addition to the need for strong protections for EJ and disadvantaged communities, the state should set a firm price for the greenhouse permits, rather than allowing the market to determine them. GELF suggests an initial price (or at least a floor) of $60 a ton, ramping up within 4 to 5 years to the social cost of pricing set by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (presently $121 a ton). The revenues would go into a dedicated climate fund. GELF said the cap on emissions should be based on a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70% by 2030 rather than the CLCPA’s 40% by 2030 (Biden has a national goal of 50 to 52% by 2030).
GELF has also called for the state to double its target of providing at least 35% of “new climate funds” to “disadvantaged” communities (DAV), now that the state has determined that at least 50% of the state population falls under the law’s definition. GELF also opposes the decision by the state to exclude large state-funded climate projects in calculating the 35% DAV goal.