Now that the legislature has passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, GELF (Green Education and Legal Fund) looks at what are next steps.
NYS needs to Invest Billions of Dollars in State Funding for Renewables – Top Priority
While the climate action goals and timelines in the CLCPA are too slow to avoid climate chaos, it is unlikely that the state will meet the modest goals it has established. Making the investments needed to achieve those goals should be a short term priority within the 2020-21 state budget and PSC / NSYERDA.
it is critical that any climate action – see Green New Deal below – includes a strong commitment to provide funding and jobs to disadvantaged communities and impacted workers. (there are many other areas to address as well such as resiliency, shut down of polluting projects, etc.) Perhaps the strongest target in the CLCPA is getting 70% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030. Presently the state gets around 20% from hydro and another 4 to 5% from wind and solar (1% from biomass) To reach the 70% goal by 2030, that state will have to increase solar and wind by an average 4.5% annually – equal to the amount that the state has added since Pataki set climate goals back in 2002.
It is expected that the PSC will increase incentives for renewable heat (geothermal, air heat pumps). We will want a lot more than they propose. GELF also wants to help build support for the various other climate alternatives such as regenerative agriculture and the 100 ideas in the Drawdown Project.
Halt new Fossil Fuel Projects – Second Priority
The Governor and State legislators avoided directly addressing this issue which Is central to avoiding catastrophic climate change. Other countries that have done a much better job of promoting renewable energy have found that it often does not lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The state does have considerable power to halt fossil fuel infrastructure. Yes, the federal government does have lead jurisdiction over interstate gas and oil pipelines but that still leaves a lot of other infrastructure under state control. The state does have control of the water permits for interstate gas pipeline projects.
There were three major bills last session that sought to halt fossil fuel projects – the OFF Act, Freedom from Fossil Fuels (Metzger) and Carroll / Sanders. All have good points; all need to be strengthened.
Utilities should also be prohibited from support customers to change from oil to gas furnaces.
A related issue is to get the state pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.
Energy retrofits / efficiency / building codes / transportation
NY a decade ago enacted a massive energy retrofit / job creation program targeted low and moderate income families called the Green Jobs Green NY program, which included On Bill Financing to pay the upfront costs for cost-effective energy upgrades. Cuomo, the PSC, the banks and the utilities worked together to hamper implementation. This needs to be fixed. Others have recommended that most of the funding that Cuomo wants to devote to energy efficiency be invested in energy retrofits for low and moderate income New Yorkers.
The OFF Act has strong proposals here. It would adopt the building code targets from California to require new buildings to be net zero carbon emissions by 2022.
We need strong goals for stopping new fossil fuel vehicles, starting with an immediate transition to 100% government-owned zero emission vehicles. We need a massive expansion of electric charging stations. Even more critical is massive increase in funding for mass transportation, bicycles and safe pedestrians’ programs. The OFF Act set a goal of all new vehicles being zero emissions by 2025 (similar to Norway and several European cities
Cuomo has initiated a process with regards to energy efficiency in which groups such as NRDC has played an active role. This needs to be strengthened. Many groups wanted NY to join the regional Transportation Climate Initiative. Cuomo seems to want to monitor this effort to see the specific recommendations.
Solving the Siting Crisis
It presently takes a decade or more to site large-scale renewable energy projects in NY. We can not avoid climate chaos with such a timetable. The siting process has to be radically overhauled. We need to shorten the approval process for large-scale renewable to 6 months to a year. Local communities should pre-approve sites where they encourage public ownership to create jobs while dealing with the climate crisis.
Raising Revenues for Climate Action
The initial Jacobson report on moving to 100% renewable energy in NYS for all uses estimated the cost at $460 billion. Recent national reports discuss several trillion dollars a year in investments. While a significant percentage of these funds can be moved over from the present investments in the energy system, we are still talking billions of dollars a year in new funding in NY alone.
The most logical source of funding is some form of carbon tax / fee and dividend / polluter penalties. Politicians however are terrified of the concept of raising taxes (no matter what wordsmithing is used to describe it). A stand-alone state carbon tax would be especially difficult, though there is a little more interest in a regional carbon tax. At the federal level, GELF supports the Coons / Feinstein bill (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2284
Groups like GELF have proposed various tax the rich measures to fund climate action, starting with keeping the $16 billion annually raised from the stock transfer tax that is immediately rebated to Wall Street speculators.
Congestion pricing is one step to raise some needed revenues. But the climate deal ignored how we are going to pay for this – and politicians are scared by revenue issues.
Themes of the Green New Deal –
The Green New Deal should continue to be developed at the national, state and local levels so that a plan can be quickly adopted if there is a change in the present national leadership. There is also a Green New Deal proposal in NYS by Senator James Sanders. We need to promote local Green New Deal programs like Ithaca has started. Public / worker ownership and democratic control of the energy system is also critical.
State (and local) Climate Planning
There will be many opportunities for input in the development of the various state climate plans and State Energy Master Plan over the next four years. While GELF will participate in this, most of the decisions will ultimately be made by the Governor, which the hearings often serving mainly as window dressing. We will continue to promote the development of local government climate action plans.
Green Education and Legal Fund, www.gelfny.org – facebook.com/nygreenelf