An Agenda for a Clean Energy Economy and Climate Justice

New York belongs to all of us. Our state’s land, water, and air shape how we live our lives and who we are as New Yorkers. Our children grow up singing about spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties. This song about our shared heritage rings so true to New York from Niagara Falls to the Adirondack Mountains to the Rockaways.

The original inhabitants of upstate New York, the Iroquois, have a saying that reminds us of our responsibility: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Yet now, we are exposing our very own children to the devastating impact of climate change, and no more so than in our most vulnerable communities.

2016 was the hottest year on record and the 12 warmest years have all occurred over the past 20 years. Sea level is projected to rise in Long Island, New York City and the Hudson Valley by three to eight inches by the 2020’s, nine to twenty-one inches by the 2050’s and fourteen to thirty inches by the 2080’s. Climate change means New York’s farmers are whipsawed by too much water followed by drought and high heat. Coastal flooding damages infrastructure, including the subway system and sends billions of gallons of untreated sewage into our state’s treasured waterways including the Hudson River and the Great Lakes. The ski industry in the Catskills and Adirondacks is losing money because of warmer weather and fewer ski days.

Hundreds of thousands of our friends and relatives in Puerto Rico remain without electricity after Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma hit the island last September, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. Due to our leadership’s continued inaction, we will likely see even more climate refugees in the coming years.

Our state belongs to all New Yorkers, not a handful of fossil fuel executives or the elected leaders whose campaign coffers they fill. It’s time to treat the earth as our shared home where our children won’t need to worry that their air, water, and land is being polluted by poison dug up from the ground or spewed from cars and buildings. We must restore balance in a world designed to sustain us and make sure the earth is habitable for future generations. Now is the time for New York to exhibit leadership and to show our children and the nation what a new, robust and flourishing clean energy economy can and should look like.

Cynthia for NY – Clean Energy Economy and Climate Justice Agenda

Transition to 100% Renewable Energy. New York currently only gets 4% of its electricity from solar and wind. Our current Governor committed to 50% renewables by 2030 – but only for electricity, not carbon emissions coming from major sources like transportation and buildings. New York still missed the 2015 target of 29% hitting only 21%. We must take immediate bold action that sets NY on track to achieve a transition to a real 100% renewable energy no later than 2050. If we don’t get to work now, it will be too late.

One of my top priorities as Governor is to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act. The bill mandates in law that New York fully transition to clean energy by 2050 by tasking state agencies with creating plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not just in our power plants, but in our cars and buildings too. Governor Cuomo only has a plan for the electricity sector when most of the emissions in New York come from buildings and transportation. Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced an energy efficiency plan that is not so different than his existing plan. Too little, too late. Cuomo’s plan still lacks a commitment to a 100% renewable energy economy. His plan still won’t fully halt all new fossil fuel infrastructure. His plan still doesn’t aggressively make corporate polluters pay for damage to our communities and our planet. Our plan is a comprehensive plan for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in every sector.

Governor Cuomo’s plan also lacks targeted support for low-income communities and communities of color who are most impacted by the effects of climate change and pollution. The bill that I will pass as Governor — the Climate and Community Protection Act that mandates 40% of state energy funding be directed toward the low-income communities and communities of color most impacted by climate change. The bill sets fair labor standards for new clean energy jobs that receive state funding, so we can make sure that green jobs are always good jobs.

This bill has passed in the Assembly twice, and garnered bipartisan support in the Senate, and simply needs strong visionary leadership to shepherd it through the legislature to get it passed.

A critical component of the Climate and Community Protection Action is also making sure there is dedicated funding for a transition to the clean energy economy that puts workers first. This includes direct investment to make sure workers employed by the fossil fuel industry are trained and supported to transition to clean energy jobs and that any lost tax base is replaced.

Reject All New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. While the extraction of fracked gas has been banned in New York, our current leadership believes that fracked gas is a “bridge” to a renewable future. Yet the science is clear. Investing in new fracked gas infrastructure locks us into decades more emissions we cannot afford, and poses serious health risks for surrounding communities. We must immediately end investment in any new fossil fuel plants and pipelines and refocus efforts and funding toward renewable energy.

Hold Corporate Polluters Accountable & Make Them Pay. Our state and local communities are already spending critical tax dollars addressing the negative impacts of climate change. Every time the fossil fuel industry pumps a ton of carbon dioxide or methane into our air, a New Yorker pays the price, whether it’s an asthma attack or another superstorm Sandy. As we learned with the tobacco industry, until we start holding corporate polluters responsible for their actions, we will see very little change in their behavior.

Estimates say that making the investment necessary to reach 100% renewable energy could generate over a 100,000 new jobs every year through building solar panels and wind turbines, retrofitting houses and other buildings, and revamping our outdated transit systems.

As Governor, I will work with the State legislature to make corporate polluters pay for the damage their causing to our communities and our planet. This would generate billions of dollars to invest in building renewable energy, protecting communities at the front lines of climate change, supporting workers transitioning into the new energy economy, and giving rebates to low and middle-income New Yorkers to save them money on their energy bills. It’s a bold, common-sense policy, that others states are already exploring. New York should be the leader in getting it done.

We also must put an end to the influence of corporate polluters on our energy policy. That’s why I’m supporting comprehensive campaign finance reform, and why I pledge to not take contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industry and will instead prioritize the health of our families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits.

Fight the Trump Plan to Open up the Atlantic Ocean for Oil and Gas Drilling. California Governor Jerry Brown has said his state would reject the pipelines and other infrastructure needed to transport oil and gas to land. New York should do the same and use its authority under the Coastal Zone Management Law at the NYS Department of State to block all offshore drilling wells. Instead of continuing to double down on dirty fossil fuels, New York can invest in offshore and land wind farms.

Fix the Subways and Expand Mass Transit. Investments in mass transit in our cities, suburban communities and across the state will drive down carbon pollution and other air contaminants. NYC’s crumbling MTA needs a major investment to bring it back to life and better management, as does the LIRR and Metro North. Significant investments need to be made to better serve rural communities by mass transit.

Divest From Fossil Fuels. New York City officials have pledged to divest its pension funds from oil and gas stocks. Fossil fuel stocks were among the worst performing sectors last year. It’s time for New York state to do the responsible thing as well and begin to divest from corporate polluters.

Let Dangerous Nuclear Power Plants Close. In 2017, Governor Cuomo made the controversial decision to spend over $7 billion in taxpayer money to bail out three aging nuclear plants. Cuomo said he needed the money to meet his renewable energy goals, but that’s just plain false. Nuclear energy was an experiment that failed and is neither clean nor renewable. New York used to be the center of innovation. We can leave nuclear energy in the past as part of our full transition to a 100% clean, renewable energy economy. Our future depends on it.

Uphold the Paris Agreement. The Trump Administration pulled out of the international Paris Climate Agreement, which for the first time provided a roadmap for hundreds of nations to reduce carbon pollution and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. The United States is the only nation in the whole world that hasn’t signed on. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolls back crucial clean air and water rules, we must fully abide by the Paris Agreement by transitioning to a 100% renewable energy economy.

We Can Do This. We need to make a bold commitment to invest in renewable energy, one that will get us off fossil fuels completely and provide thousands of new jobs — especially in the communities most impacted by pollution and climate change. We must transition from an economy based in toxic carbon emissions toward an economy that protects workers, our communities, and our planet.

It won’t be easy. But we don’t have a choice. This is an issue where we can’t afford to have rhetoric and not action. We need to be able to look our children in the eyes and say we’re fighting for them. But I know that together, with a movement, we can win this fight. The time for bold action is now.

Next Issue

Justice For All

Down Arrow An arrow pointing downwards