New York Must Solve the Climate Crisis
By Mark Dunlea, Green Education and Legal Fund
I want to thank the organizers of the 25th annual People’s State of the State for including climate justice in this year’s agenda. We have perhaps a decade to end the release of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere if we are to avoid catastrophe.
Across New York and the planet, it is the poor that are must harmed by global warming. It was the poor that felt the brunt of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, many forced from their homes forever. It is the poor, the frail elderly and the homeless who have died in the thousands from heat waves, most recently in East Asia. Each year in NYS more than 30,000 individuals are killed by air pollution from fossil fuels, especially in poor urban areas. It is the poor and communities of color who suffer the most from the asthma from fossil fuels, including diesel, and see oil bomb trains run through their communities like the South End of Albany. It is the poor in the tens of millions who have already been turned into climate refugees and are killed by the wars fought over famine, land and water.
The Governor and Attorney General deserve credit for acting on the climate. But the combined efforts of local, state, national and international officials fall far far short of what is needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Centigrade. We need an across-the-board mobilization comparable to what our country did after WWII.
We hope that the Attorney General will take legal action against Exxon for its role in promoting climate denial before Rex Tillerson becomes our Secretary of State. We need Senator Schumer to provide leadership as Senate Minority Leader to ensure that climate deniers are denied cabinet positions.
We need Gov. Cuomo to greatly step up his climate agenda. In his State of the State, we need a firm commitment to purchase at least 5,000 MW of off shore wind by 2025. We need him to fund a study for a plan to move NYS to 100% clean renewable energy for all sectors as fast as possible, hopefully by 2030.
We need the Governor and lawmakers to commit to a Just Transition, protecting the workers and communities most impacted by climate change. We need to avoid climate gentrification, ensuring the low-income New Yorkers can participate in renewable energy. We want at least 40% of the new climate change funding dedicated to disadvantaged communities. We need energy democracy that embraces public and community control and ownership over private gain.
We need lawmakers to immediately halt the era of fossils fuels. This means denying all new fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines and power plants. It means Comptroller Tom DiNapoli divesting our state pension funds from all fossil fuels, including companies investing in the DAPL pipeline.
The poor in NY already suffer the most from the nation’s highest electric rates. We do not need Cuomo’s nuke tax to hand out $7.6 billion to Exelon to keep open obsolete, dangerous and economically unviable upstate nuclear power plants. We do need a carbon tax to make corporate polluters pays, and to invest in renewable energy and the infrastructure needed for a green future while protecting low and moderate income New Yorkers with a rebate.
We need a national Green New Deal to put 20 million Americans to work, through a combination of investments in wind, solar, geothermal, conservation and other green energy sources and a massive public jobs program that makes the government the employer of last resort.
Finally, we need the NYS Food Policy Council to deal with the dangers to our food system from the changing weather. We should provide tax credits to support farmers that practice agriculture rejuvenation, putting carbon back into our soil and halting the use of fossil fuels as fertilizers and pesticides.
January 3, 2017