New York’s Groundbreaking Climate Leadership Legislation
by Peter Capek
In July of 2019, New York’s legislature passed an important and forward-thinking law which puts the state at the forefront of action and policy to respond to climate change. The law acknowledges the reality of the state of our environment, mandates appropriate responses by government and industry, and encourages and motivates action where it can’t be forced. Although some other states have also passed legislation with the same purpose, ours is particularly comprehensive,broad and visionary. The overall purpose of the law is to move the State toward clean and renewable energy generation, and to encourage other actions, such as improved efficiency in power usage, which are justified by the threat of climate change. The result will be a “greener” economy and a sustainable future. Along the way, we’ll create jobs and improve air quality. We’ll probably all experience some discomfort and perhaps expense as a result, but the importance of the climate change problem justifies that.
The law, called the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA, addresses all aspects of energy production and consumption, both for business and industry, and for consumers. It specifically requires that the state reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases which cause climate change by 40% by 2030, and then by 85% by 2050, in each case starting from the level they were in 1990. Keep in mind that these are “must do” requirements in the legislation, and that drastic reductions like this are essential to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Climate change is not something which will happen in the distant future. The severe tornadoes recently experienced in Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri, the wildfires in Colorado and California, and the flooding in the southern US were made more likely and more severe by delaying the response to climate change. The world and the nation have been too slow to take action. But with CLCPA, New Yorkers can take some comfort in our state’s leadership role. Part of the purpose of CLCPA is to encourage us, the residents of New York, also to take individual actions where we can.
There are many things that we can do. Most of the impact which we have on the environment is due to our use of transportation. Those of us who drive ICE (internal combustion engine, or gasoline-powered) cars are using fossil fuels, and putting exhaust gasses into the air whenever we drive. Hybrid vehicles are also offenders in this way, but less severely so. The best solution, and one which we’ll all eventually move to, are electric-powered cars. These can be powered by electricity which can be produced from sunlight, though today only a fraction are. Another part of CLCPA requires that the state’s power generation be achieved by solar and wind, with substantial and specific requirements. For example, the law requires that by 2025, we generate about 3 times as much power by solar sources as was produced by the recently shut down Indian Point plant. There’s an even larger goal for wind-produced power, but not until 2035. Power storage capacity is also a requirement. A governing committee called the Climate Leadership Council will oversee the implementation of these goals. We’ll go into more detail about these plans in a future article.
Lastly, it’s important to mention that the law includes a very strong environmental justice component. More than a third of the economic benefits must accrue to disadvantaged communities which have in the past been treated poorly with respect to decisions like the location of power plants which emitted noxious fumes. Overall, it is an important and influential law which we will all benefit from.
Peter Capek is on the Board of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Peter has been concerned with environmental issues for most of his life, but has taken a more active role since his retirement from IBM Research.
Yorktown100 is a 100% volunteer group of neighbors working to reduce our carbon footprint by 5% a year through various programs. Contact us if you would like to learn more or would like to join. We welcome new members! Visit us to learn more about this topic and many others and help make a difference.