New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week unveiled additional details about plans to launch a “Green New Deal” aimed at eliminating carbon emissions and furthering his administration’s efforts to battle climate change.
As part of what he billed the “Justice Agenda,” Cuomo said during his ninth state of the state address that the latest iteration of his ongoing climate initiatives would put New York on track to be 100% carbon neutral by 2040 and provide a path to a clean energy economy. The goal is even more aggressive than legislation passed last year in California targeting zero-emission power by 2045. Cuomo’s remarks and the administration’s latest environmental blueprint are another ominous sign for the long-term role for natural gas in the state.
Under Cuomo’s so-called Green New Deal, the state would work toward near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur innovation and transform its electric, transportation and building infrastructure. A Climate Action Council would be tasked with developing a roadmap for making the state carbon neutral as soon as possible. The Democratic governor’s latest budget proposal also includes billions of dollars for clean water funding, environmental protection efforts, renewable energy subsidies and communities affected by the transition.
Cuomo’s current goals call for reducing carbon dioxide emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Under his latest proposals, the state would accelerate that target over the next decade, aiming to cut emissions by 70% by 2030. The plan would also significantly expand earlier calls for offshore wind energy projects and solar capacity.
The governor earlier banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing, and the administration has challenged and even stopped gas pipeline projects. The industry panned his latest environmental agenda.
“The deal breaker for the Green New Deal is the fact that it cannot guarantee affordable and reliable energy for the most economically vulnerable,” said Executive Director Karen Moreau of the Associated Petroleum Industry of New York. She said Cuomo’s plans also fail to acknowledge the investments the industry has made in zero and low-carbon technology or its broader role in the state and national economy.
“If a cost-benefit analysis is done honestly by the Climate Action Council created by the governor’s proposal, it will recognize that oil and natural gas will remain a vital part of the energy mix in New York, providing families with a fair deal and economic justice, while at the same time reducing emissions with emerging technologies and significant investment,” Moreau said.
Environmental groups hailed the announcements, which the Sierra Club said proves Cuomo is a “national leader” in building a model for a clean energy economy. The National Resources Defense Council said Cuomo’s promises would help defend against the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations.
Others took to social media this week to criticize the plan, while some already had dismissed it outright after Cuomo last month laid out the agenda for his first 100 days in office, following his landslide victory for a third term. Critics said the plan lacks specifics or doesn’t go far enough to combat the fossil fuel industry.
“A vague pledge of carbon neutrality by the year 2040 is not the bold action necessary to move New York off fossil fuels,” said Food & Water Watch’s Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp last month shortly after the plan was outlined. Critics called for the state to ban fossil fuel infrastructure and transition to 100% renewables by 2030.
To be sure, New York has a long way to go to reach the latest targets. Fossil fuels provide 66% of generating capacity and 39% of electricity production, according to the New York Independent System Operator.
Cuomo has also set goals in the past that have yet to be reached. Last year, he ordered the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to issue a plan by the end of 2018 for the state to generate all of its electricity with renewables that hasn’t been released.
The governor might find additional support for his initiatives in the state legislature, though, which is now under Democratic control for the first time in his tenure. The governor’s latest proposals follow a campaign season in which Democrats across the country featured climate protection in their runs for office.
Democratic leaders in the U.S. House have already established a select committee on climate change to advance a Green New Deal at the national level, which appears to be factoring more heavily into the party’s platform and envisions a rapid transition to renewable energy.