Paris Treaty Highlights Need for NY to Increase Climate Goals

Climate change activists said today that the worldwide agreement in Paris which states that the target for global warming must be lowered to 1.5 degrees centigrade means that NY must double its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to 100% renewables.

The 100% Renewables Now NY campaign released a letter (link here) it sent to Governor Cuomo outlining steps they hope he will announce in his upcoming State of the State. The group is helping to organize a State of the Climate rally and march at the Capitol on January 13.

The group urged Cuomo to be a national leader on climate change by moving quickly to 100% clean energy (e.g., by 2030), starting with a commitment to purchase 5,000 MW of off shore wind by 2025 and 10,000 MW by 2030. Off-shore wind turbines also help reduce the impact of hurricanes. Richard Kauffman, Cuomo’s energy czar, recently stated that he was opposed to such Power Purchase Agreements.

More than 80 climate, faith, labor and community groups have endorsed the call for the state to transition to 100% clean energy by 2030 (A7497 / S5527).

“New York needs to help ensure that Paris was a turning point in the effort to avoid catastrophic climate change. We cannot afford business as usual while we wait for market forces to determine our energy future. We need to mobilize the state resources to promote wind, solar, geothermal and conservation while putting an immediate halt to fossil fuels and related infrastructure,” said Mark Dunlea, convener of the 100% Renewables NY campaign.

The group said that Cuomo needed to not just ban the fracking of natural gas but halt the expansion of natural gas storage facilities, pipelines and compressor stations. Short term methane (natural gas) is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

The final language of the treaty is still being negotiated in Paris, and China and Saudi Arabia are still holding out against the move away from the present 2 degree target. However, the United States and the other industrial nations have agreed to focus on moving to the lower limits. Keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees means annual reduction in emissions of about 7 %, double the reductions of 3.5% to keep warming under the 2 degrees target. Unfortunately, the emissions targets announced by individual countries leading up to Paris won’t even keep warming to under 3 degrees centigrade.

The campaign noted that the Governor’s recent call for 50% of the state’s electricity to be met by renewables by 2030 ignores the major energy uses that make up the state’s carbon footprint, such as heating and cooling and transportation. The campaign’s call for 100% clean energy by 2030 covers all energy sources. It would help create more than 280,000 40-year jobs during the build out and lower electric rates by more than 50% compared to continued reliance on fossil fuels. It would also help eliminate the estimated 3,000 plus annual deaths from burning fossil fuels, and the related $30 billion in health care costs.

“It is essential for NYS to commit to no new fossil fuel infrastructure, to set clear annual fossil fuel reduction goals, and to achieve these goals in a socially just manner,” said Sue Hughes Smith of Rochester’s Peoples Climate Coalition and Mothers Out Front.

The groups said that the state’s climate efforts must address equity issues and create a Just Transition fund to protect workers and communities impacted by the transition. The campaign opposes the Governor’s proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars bailing out coal and nuclear plants.

Other issues outlined by the campaign in its letter include:

– enactment of a robust carbon (greenhouse gas) tax to reduce pollution and end the subsidies for fossil fuels;

– investment in electric charging stations to support a quick transition to electric vehicles;

– major increases in mass transit beyond what the Governor and NYC recently agreed to;

– promotion of community shared renewables, including solar farms on brownfields;

– creating a state program under NYPA to install solar (or other renewable energy sources) on every home for no upfront payments;

– stronger efforts to energy retrofit buildings to eliminate their carbon footprint; and.

– statewide expansion of Community Choice Aggregation to enable local communities to determine the source of their electricity (i.e., renewables).