According to a United Nations intergovernmental panel, humans only have 11 years to prevent “irreversible damage” from climate change. Global warming will increase the possibility of extreme heat, flooding, and drought, putting millions of the world’s poorest populations at great risk. While Congress debates a “Green New Deal” proposal, New York state is hoping to pass legislation that would make the Empire State a carbon-emission free economy.
The Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) has been passed in the Assembly during three different legislative sessions, but has failed to clear the Senate. The CCPA sets a deadline to end New York’s use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2050, and directs 40 percent of clean energy funds to be invested in low-income, and minority communities. The legislation also mandates that all future green jobs have fair wages, and meet labor standards.
Lawmakers are hoping to pass the bill before the legislative session ends on June 19th. The CCPA is sponsored by NY State Assemblymember Steve Englebright and is supported by 75 of the 150 Assembly members. Organizations like the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defence Council, and prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben all support the bill, alongside Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
However, Governor Andrew Cuomo has not included it in his top ten priorities this year, and told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer earlier this week that he doesn’t “want to play politics with it.”
“When you talk about this transition in the economy, remember what you’re talking about, fossil-fuels, no carbon emissions, no airplanes, no trains that run on diesel, all electric cars, closing all the power plants, this is a massive transformation,” Cuomo said. “And I know the politics now is, ‘We can do everything by tomorrow.’ I have never done that.”
Instead, Cuomo has proposed his own Climate Leadership Act, which has a similar framework to the CCPA but does not specify a deadline for a carbon-free economy.
In an appearance on Lehrer’s show with Senator Tod Kaminsky on Wednesday, Assemblymember Englebright pointed out that his bill will not regulate airplanes, air travel or ocean liners.
“So there are some things outside the reach of New York,” Englebright said. “But what New York can do is take care of business on this very important issue within our own boundaries and set an example for other states and the other parts of the world.”
Englebright said the CCPA represents the “best of American capitalism and New York innovation,” and added that decarbonizing New York’s economy will benefit residents’ health and reduce the need for public tax dollars to remediate and correct respiratory diseases.
The bill does not have the complete support of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation committee, and received four "nay" votes when it was presented in February this year.
Assemblymember Robert Smullen believes the language in it is too broad to implement, and would like to see something more comprehensive.
“New York is one of the leaders in the fight against climate change, but a responsible approach should be taken to ensure it is done properly,” Smullen said in an email to Gothamist.
Smullen suggested modernizing the state’s power and coastal infrastructure first, and providing incentives for companies involved in the renewable sector.
On Wednesday Senator Kaminsky, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, reiterated that this is a top priority in both houses of the state legislature, and is confident that it will get passed. “We’re going to be pushing as hard as we can to do so,” Kaminsky said.