In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced several significant climate-related initiatives – but fell short of supporting a comprehensive and equitable plan to hold polluters accountable and move New York State to 100% renewable energy on a timeline commensurate with the urgency of the crisis.
“The Governor has moved New York from a walk to a jog on climate, but what we need is an all-out sprint,” said Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Deputy Director of PUSH Buffalo, a member of NY Renews.
The Governor’s support for congestion pricing, the augmented emphasis on offshore wind and energy efficiency, and the inclusion of equity concerns in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), all represent real progress and warrant sincere praise. But with an issue as grave as climate change, we do not have the luxury of mistaking positive steps for truly sufficient policies.
The Governor should have taken the opportunity to support a comprehensive legislation package that reorients all sectors of the economy and governance to creating a 100% renewable future and holding corporate polluters accountable for the damage they cause to New Yorkers’ health and well-being. The legislative platform proposed by the NY Renews coalition embodies those goals, through the Climate and Community Protection Act (S6617A/A8270A) and a soon-to-be-released proposal for massive investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy, underwritten by a corporate polluter fee.
“With climate change doing real damage to communities of color from Houston to Puerto Rico, this is a historic moment that requires more than incremental steps. Ultimately, Cuomo’s legacy will be judged in jobs created, disasters averted, and the urgency and equity of his climate vision,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, a member of NY Renews.
A study from the University of Massachusetts found that putting a modest $35/ton fee on corporate polluters’ emissions would generate over $7B and 150,000 new jobs for New York every year. That revenue could be invested in building clean energy infrastructure, improving mass transit, supporting fossil fuel industry workers, sustaining communities burdened by climate change, and more. It’s a simple, common sense approach to fighting the climate crisis: price pollution, and fund solutions. In his general embrace of congestion pricing for NYC, he’s already demonstrated a willingness to do just that, albeit on a small scale. To truly lead the just transition our communities so desperately need, he will need to think bigger in 2018 and enact a fee for all emissions from corporate polluters, not just those coming out of tailpipes in lower Manhattan.
Governor Cuomo still has an opportunity to include the Climate and Community Protection Act and a corporate polluter fee in his executive budget in the next few weeks, which would help ensure their passage into law.