Climate Action Plan Defines the Future of Clean Energy in New York | News


ALBANY (TNS) – Members of the state’s Climate Action Council voted last week to move forward with a draft climate scoping plan on how New York City in the coming decades will scale back greenhouse gases in all aspects of the state’s economy.

The plan, which is expected to be released for public comment by the end of this year, culminates two years and countless hours of discussion and debate on how to reduce carbon emissions from homes, cars, the economy. electricity and just about every aspect of life in the middle of the 21st century.

Members of the Climate Action Council began work soon after the adoption and promulgation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 2019. This legislation places New York at the forefront of national efforts to reduce carbon emissions that cause greenhouse gases in order to combat climate change.

The CLPA calls for a 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and aims for a carbon-free economy by 2040.

But while the 22 ACC members voted to approve the scoping plan unanimously, they disagree on the details of how to achieve their goals. In addition, many steps and potential struggles remain until the policies envisioned in the plan become law.

Once the scoping plan is published, there is a 120-day public comment period. Then, by 2023, the final plan will be forwarded to the Governor and the Legislature, as well as regulatory bodies such as the State Civil Service Commission.

This means that the framework plan, which is over 300 pages long, is a broad roadmap towards reducing carbon emissions. It’s like the directions for a long road trip that you get on Mapquest or Google Maps. When you first enter your route, a large-scale map shows you mileage, estimated time, and route choices. Next, you’re looking for step-by-step directions: which exit to take from the highway and which turns to take to your final destination.

“It won’t happen overnight,” warned Raya Salter, a lawyer and conservationist who served on the CCC.

Certainly, there will be a lot of debate and disagreement, some of which has been evidenced by the various statements that CCC members have made after voting to move forward.

“The sooner we move to a fully electric future, the sooner we will realize the vast economic and health benefits associated with a fossil-free future,” said Conor Bambrick, director of climate policy at Environmental Advocates NY in a statement after the vote. The group’s executive director, Peter Iwanowicz, was a member of the Climate Action Council.

That’s easier said than done, argued CAC member Gavin Donohue, executive director of the Independent Power Producers of New York, which represents power plant operators, including those that run on natural gas.

“The draft plan does not include enough details,” Donohue said in his statement after the vote to move forward.

“It is difficult for consumers to understand that compliance with CLCPA is intended to bring them more benefits than costs, when faced with the costs of installing or accessing renewable energies and energy storage,” replacing their heating system, buying electric cars, and finding ways to charge them.

Even with the hard work ahead, the scoping plan provides insight into the impact of emissions reduction efforts on the economy and the daily lives of millions of New Yorkers. Some of the key features include:

Electrifying homes

Buildings, which require heating and air conditioning systems, accounted for 32% of New York’s carbon emissions in 2019, according to the scoping plan. He speaks of a switch from fuels like natural gas, fuel oil, kerosene and wood to electricity from 2024, with push for local zoning codes to encourage electrification. The plan calls for the large-scale use of heat pumps, which exploit the temperature difference between the inside and outside of a house, to help with electrification. The new houses would be built to the most modern standards of efficiency and insulation.

Transport

This sector emits 28% of the state’s greenhouse gases and the plan calls for a massive transition to electric vehicles. Part of that change has already been legislated – in September, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill to phase out the sale of gasoline cars by 2035 in favor of emission-free models such as electric vehicles. Medium and heavy duty trucks with no emissions are mandatory by 2045.

Dismantling of natural gas

Currently, natural gas is the primary source of energy for electricity in the state. It powers a fleet of power plants, some of which have switched from petroleum and even coal in recent years. Eventually, renewable energies such as solar and wind power are expected to take over. It will be an ongoing and complicated process and can be one of the most controversial parts of the framing plan, especially when you consider how quickly this should happen.

Donohue, for example, maintains that “dispatchable” or on-demand energy sources from gas-fired power plants will play a role in the future, as solar and wind power depend on weather conditions. Gas-fired power plants would provide a backup, for example, on windless and cloudy days, when wind turbines and solar panels are not producing much electricity.

On the other hand, the plan talks about energy storage, in which large-scale next-generation batteries can store electricity for days without solar or wind power.

Climate justice

The concept that low-income and majority-minority neighborhoods have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution plays an important role in the scoping plan.

Historically, industrial facilities such as power plants, landfills, truck parks or factories were often located in or near low-income neighborhoods. Albany’s South End, for example, adjoins Albany Harbor, railroads and a major truck route.

To rectify what council members say is a historic injustice, the plan is taking steps to ensure these neighborhoods and their residents benefit from some of the changes to come. This could be done through training programs to work in the green economy, subsidies for installing solar panels, or other considerations.

Members of a special working group on climate justice spent a lot of time determining which communities should be eligible, and they took a broad approach, taking into account income, health models, pollution levels and pollution. other factors in a given community. “We layered the features,” said Amy Klein, CEO of the Troy-based Capital Roots food distribution program, which was part of the group.

Carbon tax

The plan talks about a carbon price, or carbon tax, to help finance the switch to renewable energy. According to this concept, polluters who emit CO2, whether they are factories, schools, hospitals or shopping centers, would pay a royalty or tax based on the amount of carbon they release into the world. air every year.

The proceeds of the levy would subsidize renewable energy and other carbon reduction activities. Getting this tax or fee passed will no doubt be a tough job that should be done by elected lawmakers who hate being blamed for a new gas tax.

New Yorkers got a glimpse of this dynamic last year when the push for a carbon tax bill, known as the Climate and Community Investment Act, or CCIA, was launched. but quickly sank, at least for now.

The proposal would have taken $ 55 per tonne of fossil fuel emissions, generating about $ 2.3 billion per year. But when an initial calculation found it would cost motorists an additional 55 cents per gallon, the bill died, even though it envisioned discounts for low-income commuters as well.

It was undoubtedly a first step towards a carbon tax, and the idea will probably come back, but not necessarily in 2022, which is an election year.

When it comes to tough decisions, lawmakers like to wait for reports, studies or special commissions to guide them – and to deflect some of the criticism if it is an unpopular decision.

“If you’re talking to the state legislature, their excuse was that we waited for the Climate Council to tell us what to do,” said Mark Dunlea, veteran activist and chairman of the Green Education and Legal Fund, of the discussion on last year’s carbon tax.

“We have to figure out how we’re going to pay for it,” Salter added.


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