Climate Change Activists Urge Increased State funding for Renewable Energy Transition
(Albany, NY – Jan. 29, 2016) Climate change activists, testifying today at the State budget hearing on the environment, urged state legislators to increase funding for the transition to renewable energy, and to enact a carbon tax.
Groups also want the state to provide funding for A Just Transition, targeting jobs and financial assistance to individuals and communities most impacted by climate change and the move away from fossil fuels.
A copy of the testimony is at bit.ly/1PHLNo2.
“The climate goal the Cuomo administration adopted is based on the outdated science of limiting global warming to 2 degrees centigrade. The world set a new goal of 1.5 degrees at the Paris climate summit. This means that the emissions reduction rate must be doubled compared to what the Governor has proposed,” said Steve Breyman, Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Scientists say the new goal requires an annual GHG emission reductions of 7 to 9%, with the industrial countries reaching net zero emissions by 2030 or earlier.
Breyman, testifying on behalf of the Green Education and Legal Fund, urged state lawmakers to fund the development of a state plan to move the state to 100% renewable energy by 2030. GELF coordinates the 100% Renewables Now NY campaign (A7497 / S5527), with more than 85 organizational co-sponsors and 15 legislative sponsors.
Breyman recommended that the state fund a study of how best to implement a state carbon tax to lower greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to 100% renewables. The International Monetary Fund estimates that governments provide an annual $5.3 trillion subsidy to fossil fuels by not holding them financially accountable for the damages from their air pollution. In NY, it is estimated that burning fossil fuels annually results in 3,000 plus excess deaths and $30 billion in higher health care costs.
GELF noted that the recent Clean Energy Fund enacted by the State Public Service Commission actually substantially cuts funds for investments in renewables (by about 25% or $1.5 billion over the next decade) while establishing a goal to phase out subsidies for renewables such as solar. Critics of the Governor’s climate change plan says it relies far too heavily on the market to drive the transition to renewable energy.
GELF has been urging the Governor and PSC to commit to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) of 5,000 MW of offshore wind by 2025 and 10,000 MW by 2030, something that has been opposed by the Governor’s energy czar. GELF said that if Cuomo is unwilling to do a PPA for wind, state legislators should fund a Feed in Tariff program similar to those in Europe to speed up the transition to renewable energy.
Studies show that investing in renewable energy will increase jobs, be healthier for New York residents, and reduce electric bills by 50% compared to continued reliance upon fossil fuels. Climate change advocates support a Just Transition fund to assist communities and workers that will be impacted by the closing of existing fossil fuel and nuclear power facilities.
Environmental groups applauded the Governor for making New York among the nation’s leaders in addressing climate change, including his recent announcement to phase out coal plants over the next 4 years. Yet they say more needs to be done on a faster timeline. For instance, Governor Cuomo in his State of the State address set a target of solarizing 150,000 homes and businesses by 2020. California in contrast has made significant progress in meetings its goal of solarizing 1 million homes by 2017 (goal set in 2007). GELF suggested that the state provide up front financing to any homeowner wanting to install solar, similar to the SolarCity leasing model.
Breyman urged the Governor to fix the problems with the Green Homes Green NY program passed by the legislature 5 years ago to energy retrofit one million homes and create 14,000 jobs. Instead only about 30,000 homes have been retrofitted.
GELF also urged lawmakers to substantially increase funding for mass transit beyond what Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio recently agreed to; fund a major expansion of recharging stations for electric vehicles; and to divest the state pension funds from fossil fuels. It supports providing funds to low and moderate income groups to intervene in the PSC’s Reforming Energy Vision process. It also said that state needs to halt the investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, include natural gas since methane is 87 times more potent short term as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It opposes the Governor’s plan to subsidize nuclear power.
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