Op ed on Need for NYS Climate Action

Dear Climate Activists:

Below is a link to send a message to your state legislator demanding they pass climate legislation – the strongest possible – before they leave Albany for the rest of the year.

It is not clear they will do anything. The main disputes are over the level of funding to target to disadvantaged communities and Cuomo’s opposition to committing to zero emissions / 100% renewable energy for all uses by any target date.

You can also contact your editorial board to urge them to write about the issue. He is a link to the Times Union editorial this morning. Below is a message that GELF sent to editorial boards.

New York needs bold climate action NOW.

We have until June 19 to pass legislation in Albany to move off fossil fuels and prevent climate change.

Please send a message to our lawmakers: We don’t have time for half-measures – support a ban on new fossil fuel projects and shifting to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Take action and forward this link widely:https://secure.foodandwaterwatch.org/act/bold-climate-action-now?ms=dist_op_06122019_ny-bold-climate-action&oms=dist_op_06122019_ny-bold-climate-action

Green Education and Legal Fund

Dear Editorial Board:

We hope you will editorialize in favor of the state legislature passing the strongest climate change possible before they adjourn their session for the rest of the year.

The IPCC has warned that politicians have 11 years left to take unprecedented action to avoid catastrophic climate that threatens human civilization as we know it – and they are being overly optimistic. There is no issue more important than this.

The main dispute between the Governor and state legislators is over what level of climate funds to dedicate to environmental justice. The target goal is 40% of climate funds. This is an important issue that needs to be resolved.

We also need to ensure a Just Transition. Many people fear that a transition to a clean energy economy will hurt them financially. We need to ensure that is not true.

Most importantly, we need to set a timeline for transition to 100% clean renewable energy as soon as possible. Even more important than the debate over whether the end date should be 2030 (as the OFF Act, Green New Deal and Freedom from Fossil Fuels Act sets), 2040, 2050 – or longer – is what will New York do in 2020, 2021, 2022. Politicians tend to ignore dates decades away since they will likely no longer be in office.

New York lags behind many other states in moving to renewable energy. And 17 years after Governor Pataki first set climate goals, NY has not come close to even his initial targets, with only 4% of the state’s electricity coming from wind and solar. Progress on reducing emissions from transportation and buildings – each of which account for about 1/3 of the state’s carbon footprint – has been even slower.

More than three years ago our organization got funding into the Assembly budget resolution for a study on how fast New York could move to 100% renewable energy for all sources. While it did not make it into the final budget, we were able to get Governor Cuomo in January 2017 to direct NYSERDA to do such a study. The study is now more than 18 months late. NYSERDA says it doesn’t want to release the study since the costs of renewables keeps dropping so rapidly that whatever they put out will be outdated. It is time for the state to release whatever draft they have come up with, especially with Cuomo arguing that he wants any timeline to be based on science rather than politics.

New York must say no to fossil fuels, starting with a halt to any new fossil fuel infrastructure. It was only a few years ago that Governor Cuomo refused to link the burning of fossil fuels to climate change. New York still relies on natural gas as its biggest energy source – yet methane is 82 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon. Other countries which are much farther ahead than the US in developing renewable energy have found that does not directly translate into a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

There are legal pre-emption issues around the state’s ability to control fossil gas compared to the federal government. But the first step is for the state to declare that it wants to halt any new fossil fuel infrastructure and take what steps it can to make that occur. Putting the state on record would be important. It also needs to ramp up its efforts to incentivize alternatives such as renewable heat (air heat pumps and geothermal) and mass transit / electric vehicles.

One issue largely ignored at the Capitol is a state or regional carbon tax. Even the IMF complains about the huge subsidy provided to fossil fuels by not charging them for the health and environmental damages they cause. When Governor Cuomo provided a $7.6 billion bailout to three failing upstate nuclear power plants, he used a $40 plus ton per carbon pricing theory to justify that bailout. It is time to levy that cost on the use of fossil fuels, hopefully with a regional plan that replaces the tepid, ineffective Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) initiated by Governor Pataki.

It is certainly long past time for the state to divest its state pension fund from fossil fuels before they lose all value – and while there is still time to save life on the planet.

Attached is a letter than 171 groups sent to the Governor and lawmakers earlier this week.

Thanks for your consideration.


Mark A. Dunlea
Green Education and Legal Fund
518 860-3725


Link to letter and signatories (text is also at end of release) https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/061019-off_sign-on_letter_to_cuomo_legislators.pdf