New York needs to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030. Enact a Green New Deal. Halt new Fossil Fuels.
NYS Comptroller Agreed in December 2020 to remove risky fossil fuels from the state pension fund.
Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity, not only from global warming and extreme weather but from its role in the sixth mass extinction of species in the planet’s history. Green energy would help reduce the climate crisis and is a path to full employment and lower energy prices.
Green New Deal – A COVID 19 Economic Stimulus
The first call in the US for a Green New Deal was done by the Green Party in 2010 (greens in Europe had launched the effort several years previously). The original GND, an economic stimulus recovery response to the global financial collapse, combined a rapid ten-year transition to 100% renewables, zero-emissions with the implementation of an Economic Bill of Rights (guaranteed living wage jobs, universal health care, housing, education) as FDR had called for in his last two State of the Unions. It also supported major cuts in the Pentagon budget as a principal way to fund the effort, along with a robust carbon tax. Cong. Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement two years ago elevated the GND to a new level of public awareness.
The COVID crisis show how interconnected the world has become – and that it is possible to rapidly change day-to-day existence. The GND and solving the climate crisis should be the core of the country’s – and world – COVID economic relief package. Congressional Democrats led by Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer have sponsored THRIVE as a GND-lite infrastructure stimulus package for 2021.
GELF endorses the Movement for a Green New Deal, a NYS focused campaign which calls for 100% Renewable Energy Now, a ban on new fossil fuels infrastructure, public power and a tax on the rich.
Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy by 2030, Ban on New Fossil Fuels
In 2015, GELF decided to try to implement the study done by Stanford and Cornell professors during the successful fight to ban the hydrofracking of natural gas that showed that NY could meet its energy needs through renewable energy rather than natural gas. A major focus was the expansion of offshore wind off of Long Island. GELF drafted legislation (The OFF Act) to move New York to 100% clean renewable energy (no nuclear) by 2030 with net zero greenhouse gas emissions (using regenerative agriculture for offsets) with a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure. The law would also have required local governments to develop and implement climate action plans.
Unfortunately, in June 2019 Governor and State legislature instead adopted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which has a much slower timeline (net zero by 2050, with only an 85% reduction in emissions.) The law fails to call for a halt to fossil fuel infrastructure. It largely enacted the existing Executive Order from 2009 on climate including a process for a state climate plan by 2023. The final bill stripped out the labor protections activists had sought, failed to fund a Just Transition for impacted workers and communities dependent on fossil fuels, and weakened the requirement to invest climate funds in environmental justice communities (a goal of 35% for new funding).
The bill did set a goal of 70% renewable energy for electricity (about a quarter of emissions) by 2030, and 100% from clean energy (i.e., with nukes) by 2040. It also set goals for Off Shore Wind of 9,000 MW by 2035.
The Climate Action Council, primarily members of the Governor’s administration with some members appointed by the State Legislature, has begun to meet to discuss developing a plan by 2023. A number of advisory panels have been established.
Gov. Cuomo had announced in his 2017 State of the State that he was directing NYSERDA to do the study GELF requested on how fast NYS can move to 100% clean energy. The study has been repeatedly delayed. A stripped-down version was released in 2020 though most cost-figures were eliminated.
While the CLCPA set much weaker goals than the bill drafted by GELF, most observers doubt that the state will achieve even the reduced goals. The state has a long history of failing to meet its climate goals. Eighteen years after Governor Pataki first set goals to significantly expand renewable energy, the state gets less than 5% of its electricity from wind and solar. Most of its renewable energy comes from hydro projects built during the New Deal of FDR. Groups are trying to monitor the state’s actions in implementing the CLCPA.
GELF endorses the Renewable Heat Now campaign, which includes using air heat pumps and geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings rather than natural gas or other fossil fuels.
Divest from Fossil Fuels
On December 9, 2020, the NYS Comptroller, after an eight-year campaign by 350NYC and DivestNY, of which GELF was an active participant, announced that he had agreed to divest the $230 billion state pension fund from the riskiest fossil fuels and to decarbonize the entire fund by 2040. NYC officials had made a similar announcement three years previously. (See media coverage.)
100 state legislators had signed on as co-sponsors to the divestment legislation before DiNapoli made his announcement. The failure to divest over the last decade had cost the state more than $22 billion in lost value has fossil fuels have been the worst performing sector on Wall Street. The fund had held over $12 billion in fossil fuels, including more than $1 billion invested in ExxonMobil alone. DivestNY had pointed out that it was morally wrong for the state to seek to profit from the burning fossil fuels which threatens the future of life on the planet.
DivestNY Teachers is focusing on the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS), which has an estimated $4.5 billion invested in climate destroying fossil fuels with over $500,000,000 invested in Exxon Mobil alone.
Stop the Money Pipeline is a similar campaign to stop the financial sector (banks, insurance companies, assets managers) from funding, insuring and investing in the climate crisis. For instance, JP Morgan Chase is the world’s top banker of fossil fuels, providing $196 billion in funding to fossil fuel companies since 2016.
State Carbon Tax and Carbon Pricing
A carbon tax is an “upstream” tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and biofuels. A carbon tax is the most efficient means to instill crucial price signals that spur carbon-reducing investment. The biggest obstacle to clean energy is that the market prices of coal, oil and gas don’t include the true costs of carbon pollution. (read more).
Some groups such as Food and Water Watch oppose a carbon tax as a market device that enable polluters to continue to burn fossil fuels. They advocate instead for mandatory emissions reductions.
In 2015, GELF helped write a state carbon tax that would require polluters to pay for the damages caused by burning fossil fuels. NY Renews has also developed the Climate and Community Investment Act which they refer to as a polluter penalty bill.
The NY ISO, which regulates the wholesale electricity market, has developed their own carbon pricing proposal in response to Governor Cuomo using the social cost of carbon as the legal basis for his $7.6 billion bailout of three upstate nuclear plants. (An overview of national ISO carbon pricing proposals.)
A dozen states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic are looking at introducing carbon pricing for transportation, (TCI) possibly as an expansion of the existing regional cap-and-trade program (RGGI) for electricity producers, Cap-and-trade programs however are strongly criticized on equity grounds by environmental justice groups. The Congressional Research Service concluded that RGGI’s direct impacts on emissions reductions have been negligible, partially because the price of carbon ($6 a ton) is so slow.
Community Choice Aggregation
GELF helped initiate Community Choice Aggregation in the Capital District. 13 municipalities with 80,000 households have agreed to buy electricity together to reduce the cost of obtaining 100% clean energy. While CCAs only started in Westchester County a few years ago, they are a major energy supplies out West such as California. Unfortunately, the project stalled in 2020 due to the COVID crisis and the wild fluctuations in energy prices. Capital District Community Energy was set up to work to promote CCAs, renewable energy and climate action.
Presidential Action on Climate Change
GELF supports the call for President Biden to take executive action on climate change without the need for Congressional approval (see climatepresident.org) It includes setting a goal of moving to 100% clean electricity by 2030. It embraces a commitment to environmental justice for frontline communities and a Just Transition to ensure that all individuals benefit from the changes. Most importantly, it calls to keep fossil fuels in the ground, including a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure. And a ban on fracking.
GELF opposes the push to invest tens of billions in carbon capture technology, viewing it as corporate welfare greenwashing designed to allow the continued use of fossil fuels.
Halt Single-Use Plastics
The proliferation of single-use plastic around the world is accelerating climate change and should be urgently halted, a report warns. Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fuelled in part by the fracking boom in the US. Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product.
Ethane cracker plants are the fossil fuel industry’s latest attempt to lock us into a dirty energy economy, bringing extensive and expensive infrastructure that fills our air and water with toxic chemicals while contributing to the climate crisis and slowing the transition to renewables. The worst part is that these plants aren’t just bad for the planet. They’re bad – really, really bad – for our health, spewing all kinds of dangerous chemicals into the air. According to the American Chemistry Council – the industry is looking to invest over $200 billion on new ethane cracker facilities and projects in order to capitalize on the abundance of cheap natural gas.
Single-use plastics are a glaring example of the problems with throwaway culture. We produce 300 million tons of plastic each year worldwide, half of which is for single-use items. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. Reducing plastic use is the most effective means of avoiding this waste (and the impacts linked to plastic production and use).
Over time, sun and heat slowly turn plastics into smaller and smaller pieces until they eventually become what are known as microplastics. These microscopic plastic fragments, no more than 5 millimeters long, are hard to detect—and are just about everywhere. They end up in the water, eaten by wildlife, and inside our bodies. For wildlife, microplastics can be particularly dangerous; when eaten they can easily accumulate inside an animal’s body and cause health issues,
GELF operates a community radio station in Albany (WOOA) as part of the Hudson Mohawk Radio Network affiliated with the Sanctuary for Independent Media.
December 28, 2020
GELF is a 501(c)(3)nonprofit dedicated to promoting the green values of nonviolence, ecology, democracy and justice.
Organized in 1998, the purposes of GELF include conducting research and education in furtherance of the green principles of ecology, grassroots democracy, non-violence, social and economic justice, decentralization, community economics, feminism, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus.