The Amazing New York Climate Bill

Letter from Earthcare

The spirit is leading the many thoughtful people in New York through the difficulties of shaping one of the most progressive policies in the union in regards to climate change.  We in Ithaca Monthly Meeting, who advocate stewardship and respect for the Earth, can only be very excited and encouraged by the historic clean energy transition now underway, unfolding largely unnoticed by numerous people until recently.

The driver for this transition is the 2019 NY Climate Act – official name: the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  This bill sets the most ambitious goals in the nation for emissions reduction – 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and then to 85% below 1990 levels by 2050.   Not only are these goals impressive, but also the commitments made to achieve them will be enforceable and written into law.

The methods and processes set into motion by this bill have been painstaking and deliberate.   The bill authorized a ”Climate Action Council” to be formed by a diverse set on NY Departments, people, and organizations, representing a political spectrum of opinions from multiple sectors of the economy – renewable energy, transportation, fuels, buildings, agriculture, and waste sectors – to come up with the policies and actions to make the climate goals happen.    Over the past 2 years the Council has been formed and has been working on how and what to implement.  Just this past December they completed a draft “Scoping Plan,” which is now open for a 120 day period of public comment.  See:

The “Scoping Plan” is a huge financial commitment, but at this point funding is unclear, especially since federal aid from the “Build Back Better” legislation has collapsed. Both a tax on the rich and a carbon tax have been proposed. Like all such large projects projected into the future many of its figures are based on estimates and unknowns. Practically minded accounting people are asking for more transparency, which is entirely understandable and important, yet how do you estimate what climate inaction will cost NYC or what affect the bill itself will have on the economy?  Even the authors of the “Scoping Plan” admit this aspect needs more work, and it will be one of the major talking points in the public hearings ahead.

Expectations are that moving from fossil fuels will initially raise costs and money will have to be transferred to those who cannot afford to meet them.  Expectations are also to create 160,000 new jobs – as well as lose some old ones.  Economic justice is a serious consideration of the bill and there a requirement to direct at least 35-40% of the program’s benefits to historically disadvantaged communities

The Climate Action Council and it’s advisory panels include two people from the Ithaca area: Bob Howarth, Ecologist & Earth system scientist from Cornell, and Suzanne Hunt, a strategist and a seventh gen­er­a­tion farm and Finger Lakes winery owner.  Suzanne serves on one of the advisory panels to the CAC, “The Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel”.   The new proposed laws will require updated accounting for methane emissions, a strong driver of atmospheric warming. That updated accounting was recommended based on Howarth’s research. There are seven advisory panels covering everything from energy efficiency to land use to waste, as well as a “Just Transition Working Group”.

Looking into the “Scoping Plan” and trying to understand it requires some investment in time, but the impact on New York (it will set into a motion a whole shift in energy use to electric vehicles, heating pumps, and off-shore wind energy, for one) is so great that it is well worth your time.

Earthcare will be reporting occasionally as this bill progresses.  A few links and sources of education: