By Denis Slattery
An ambitious plan to position the Empire State as a national leader in combating climate change is about to be a reality.
Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers reached a deal Tuesday and planned to vote on a sweeping piece of climate legislation that would promote green jobs, end the state's reliance on fossil fuels and eliminate nearly all man-made pollution by 2050.
"I want New York to have the most aggressive climate change program in the United States of America. Period," Cuomo told WCNY's Susan Arbetter. "You know our goal from day one was to reclaim New York's legacy as the progressive capital that showed the other states and the country the way forward. I think climate change is the issue of our lifetime frankly, and the legacy that we leave our children."
The new law, a combination of the Legislature's long-sought Climate and Communities Protection Act and Cuomo's own version of the Green New Deal, would require 70% of electricity used in the state to come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro by 2030. By 2040, 100% of the state's grid would come from clean, carbon-free sources.
The measure also sets aside a portion of the state climate fund for investment in the communities most affected by climate change and pollution.
"What we need to do in New York is to be first movers. We want to be creating the green jobs here, having the energy investments, the infrastructure in our state," bill sponsor Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau) told the Daily News. "The state's that do that first are going to have a tremendous advantage in a green economy and we want to lead the way in doing that."
The legislation also includes standard reporting requirements and the formation of a climate action council and working groups, Kaminsky said.
Another major goal set in the measure is the elimination of 85% of greenhouse gas emissions, from a baseline of 1990 levels, from the state's entire economy within 30 years.
The amended proposal, renamed the Climate Leadership and Communities Protection Act in a nod to the governor's original pitch, is expected to be voted on either late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
"It would be the strongest climate bill in the country," Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, told The News. "It is really taking a holistic look at how we are going to green our economy over the next 30 years."
The three-way agreement comes weeks after Cuomo criticized the bill put forth by his fellow Democrats as unrealistic.
"What I don't want to do is to give people a political placebo where we put forth dates and goals that we cannot make," the governor said after omitting the environmentally-friendly package from his end-of-session priorities list.
Some advocates said that while a major victory, they wished to see lawmakers go further. NY Renews, a coalition of environmental, social justice and labor groups, felt that some of the changes made weakened the bill.
"While the bill does set mandates for deep emissions cuts, including a zero emissions target for the electric sector, we are deeply concerned that changes in the legislative language over the versions of the bill will weaken the bill's original intent to directly invest resources in vulnerable communities," the group said.
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