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New York Is About to Pass One of the Most Ambitious Climate Bills in the Land

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Within the next 24 hours, New York State’s 2019 legislative session will grind to an end, closing the book on five months of remarkably effective progressive law-making. With all branches of state government now firmly under Democratic control, the state has passed a spate of laws essential to protecting vulnerable New Yorkers, from the Reproductive Health Act, which codifies Roe v. Wade protections into state law to a suite of sweeping rent regulations and tenant protections. (Others, like the state’s single-payer health care bill, continue to languish, despite broad public support.)

Now, if all goes as expected, the legislature will pass and the governor is expected to sign a groundbreaking piece of climate legislation. It has been described—by Robert Reich and Heather McGhee in a 2016 Nation article—as “the most progressive climate-equity policy we’ve seen.”

Originally known as the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), this bill, which is now called the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, represents New York State’s—and the nation’s—best hope for meaningful climate action. Activists describe it as a climate, jobs, and justice bill that would make it New York’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent over 1990 levels by the year 2050 and create thousands of jobs over the next decade. It would also require that a significant portion of the benefits of state spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs be invested in “frontline” communities (those facing the worst effects of climate change). 

The bill nearly didn’t make it to the finish line, held up in good measure by the governor’s foot-dragging throughout much of the session. (Earlier this month, he warned during a radio interview that the CCPA would require “a massive transformation” of the state’s economy, and one he felt it would be unwise to rush.) But representatives from his office spent Father’s Day hammering out a deal with members of the Assembly and Senate. The following morning, Cuomo announced on WAMC, I believe we have an agreement. I believe it’s going to pass.”

What passes will likely be similar to the version of the CCPA originally proposed by legislators but, the most recent version of the bill suggests, with less investment in disadvantaged communities and less ambitious targets for decarbonization. Rather than requiring that 40 percent of state climate funds be invested in disadvantaged communities, as originally written, the amended bill sets a floor of 35 percent, with a “goal”  for disadvantaged communities to receive 40 percent “of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments” in a range of areas. And, rather than setting goals of reducing emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 0 percent by 2050, the amended bill makes it “a goal of the state of New York to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all anthropogenic sources 100% over 1990 levels by the year 2050”—and it sets “an incremental target of at least a 40 percent reduction in climate pollution by the year 2030.”

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