GELF Wants Lawmakers to Agree to Speed Up Climate Action

Greens Want to Work with Cuomo and Lawmakers to Enact the Strongest Climate Change Agenda Possible Post-Budget

“We look forward to working with the Governor and state lawmakers to adopt the strongest climate change agenda possible. We need to make New York the world leader on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and converting to a sustainable economy that reduces climate change and provides economic security for all New Yorkers,” said Mark Dunlea, Chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund (GELF).

Lawmakers are saying that they do not plan to take up climate change as part of the budget.

Climate activists say it is positive that lawmakers understand the need for faster and bolder action, and that they seem to be committed to goal of a Just Transition and Environmental Justice. The Governor is advancing climate work and goals in a number of areas, including a recent major increase in support for off shore wind as that market heats up.

While many lawmakers and key community and environmental groups are pushing for a 2050 timeline to go emissions free / 100% clean energy (e.g., CCPA), many other climate groups are pushing for a much faster timeline, starting with a 2030 goal. Cuomo says he wants electricity to be 70% renewable by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2040.

The NYS OFF Act (A3565) supported by GELF, Food and Water Watch and 180 other community groups is the strongest piece of climate legislation in the country, with its goal of 2030, a halt to fossil fuel projects, EJ / Just Transition, and strong planning processes including the local level. The bill has about 30 combined legislative sponsors in the two houses.

“The Rochester People’s Climate Coalition applauds Cuomo’s increased commitment to renewably generated electricity but notes that we need more frequent intermediary benchmarks.  In addition, we need a clear halt to any new fossil fuel infrastructure and a real path to converting transportation and building heating to systems powered by clean, carbon-free, electricity.  As the world’s 13th largest economy, NYS needs to demonstrate that it is no longer acceptable to think we can negotiate with the basic physics and chemistry of our planet’s atmosphere” said Sue-Hughes Smith of RPCC.

“It’s positive that state lawmakers agree with we need to speed up the transition – but we need to go much faster and cleaner. Even more important than 10 or 30 year goals, we need to set clear short terms goals, for 2020, 2021, and 2022. We need a transparent and participatory process to create enforceable climate action plans for our state and local governments, with clear benchmarks and timelines. We need to incorporate strong environmental justice, Just Transition and community / worker ownership,” added Dunlea.

“We need a society-wide mobilization to provide the best possible world for our future generations. Right now we are leaving them a mess which threatens the very existence of human beings. Even the more positive alternatives still result in widespread wars, famines and death. We need an immediate emergency full-scale mobilization,” he added.

Climate groups say the first step is an immediate halt to new fossil fuel projects and reject natural gas as a bridge fuel to a clean energy future. The Williams Pipeline has been the recent prominent controversy but there are numerous local fights over pipelines, plants, etc. Groups are seeking to revoke the permits for the massive CPV plant in Orange Country after the Governor’s campaign manager and top staff was convicted of corruption involving the plant.

Many groups want Cuomo to shelve his plans to install more gas turbines at Sheridan Ave to power the State Capitol complex, including a “Microgrid.” They say the Capitol should be a model for state and national action, and should go 100% green renewables geothermal, solar and wind. The state should compensate area residents for a century of air pollution to power the Capitol, including jobs programs and renewable energy and conservation measures.

Groups want the state to commit to 100% renewable energy for the project if it re-appropriates $88 million in this year’s budget. The language in the Assembly one-house budget resolution supports that goal.

“Let’s make Albany the green model city, to show how we must combine effective climate action with economic security and opportunity for all residents. We need to make this a path to prosperity,” stated Dunlea.

GELF continues to support a Green New Deal agenda as it has done for the last decade. GELF helped organize a forum last weekend in Albany with 60 participants who discussed the history and goals of the Green New Deal. Sen. Sanders and As. Ortiz have introduced a Green New Deal proposal for NY. The local Extinction Rebellion group talked about their plans to more directly confront politicians over their slow pace in dealing with the climate threat.

GELF also wants the state to enact a ban on plastic bags combined with a fee on other single use bags. The Senate has been supportive of such an initiative.