By - Jim Vess

New York passes sweeping climate action plan to get to net-zero carbon emission by 2040

Energize Weekly, June 26, 2019

A bill passed by the New York state legislature sets the goal of boosting renewable power, including poorer communities in the transition to clean energy and getting the state to net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 for all economic activity.

The legislation, passed on June 20, is supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “New York has enacted the most aggressive climate change legislation in the nation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As Washington turns a blind eye and rolls back decades of environmental protections, New York turns to a future of net zero emissions.”

When it is signed into law, New York will join California, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington and New Mexico as states with a 100 percent clean energy requirement. Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have also adopted a 100 percent target.

The bill sets an economy-wide target of an 85 percent emissions reduction from 1990 levels by 2030 and seeks to offset the remainder through carbon sinks.

The New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CCPA), calls for a broad range of programs including not only electric power generation, but also energy efficiency, transportation, carbon sequestration and community development.

CCPA target is to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050 with the remainder of emission offset by carbon sinks.

Among the bill’s provisions are:

  • A 70 percent renewable energy mandate by 2030 target for utilities and 100 percent carbon-free generation by 2040
  • Programs established by 2024 to procure 9 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power and 6 GW of photovoltaic solar generation by 2035
  • A program to support 3 GW of energy storage by 2030
  • Increasing energy efficiency in the state by 23 percent by 2040
  • Implementing “easily-replicated” renewable energy projects, including solar arrays, heat pumps and wind turbines in public, low-income housing in suburban, urban and rural areas

The legislation also calls for programs to promote electric vehicles; land-use and transportation planning measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles; and measures to achieve long-term carbon sequestration through best management practices in land use, agriculture and forestry.

CCPA includes a special focus on what the bill calls “disadvantaged communities,” which it says should receive 35 percent of the benefits of state clean energy programs.

“Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of racial and ethnic discrimination,” the bill said. “Actions undertaken by New York state to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities … and prioritize the allocation of public investments in these areas.”

Among the mandates is that at least 20 percent of energy efficiency investments, “where practicable,” be made in a manner to benefit disadvantaged communities and low- to moderate-income consumers.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is also directed to consider “enhanced incentive payments for solar and community distributed projects focused on by not limited to those serving disadvantaged communities.”

NY Renews – a coalition of community, environment and labor groups – had pushed for a broad program for workers and low-income communities but it supports the emission reductions mandated by the bill.

“Ultimately, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is a partial victory for New Yorkers,” the coalition said in a statement. “The fight for true climate justice demands transformative change, and we will bring that fight until our communities win.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national environmental organization, said the CCPA is a major step forward.

“New York is now in a league of its own on climate action,” Rhea Suh, the NRDC’s president said in a statement. “This bill will help fundamentally transform the state’s economy, slash climate pollution, and help create a more just and equitable society. There is no doubt that New York’s leadership sets the bar for the rest of the nation.”

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