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Why Won’t New York State Take Bold Action on Climate Change?

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According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have about twelve years to dramatically reduce our rate of carbon pollution or face a dire and apocalyptic future.

There has been very little action on climate change at the federal level, but in the states, there have been growing calls to set legally-enforceable mandates to combat carbon emissions. In New York, the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) would enshrine these mandates into law. There is just one problem: Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Climate and Community Protection Act, if enacted, would make all of New York’s economy carbon-free by 2050. State agencies are responsible for issuing regulations that can meet this goal. Under the CCPA, citizens would be able to bring lawsuits if the state does not meet emissions standards. In other words, New Yorkers would be able to sue the state for failure to enforce CCPA.  

In addition, the CCPA directs 40 percent of transition funds to low income communities, communities of color, and communities most negatively impacted by extracting and burning fossil fuels. The CCPA would attach fair labor standards, including prevailing wage standards, to all state-subsidized green projects. Heather McGhee and Robert Reich called it “the most progressive climate-equity policy we’ve seen.”

The bill was first introduced in 2015, and passed the state assembly three times. The state senate looks poised to act on the bill this year, but Cuomo has not supported it nor said that he would sign it. For the past four years, yet he’s ignored the legislation while claiming to be a climate leader.

Instead, Cuomo has proposed his own bill, the Climate Leadership Act. But the CLA falls far short of both the national Green New Deal and the CCPA, which is supported by over 170 organizations in New York State.

In a recent survey with 350 Action, Data for Progress asked, “Would you support or oppose a Green New Deal, a policy in which the Federal government creates jobs and invests in low-income communities building energy efficient infrastructure, replacing lead water pipes, and updating America’s energy grid?”

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