Climate Plans Coming into Focus

State asks public for input

In 2019, New York State passed what it hailed as America’s most ambitious state climate law: the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Among other goals, it requires the state to get 70 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030, reach zero-emissions electricity by 2040, and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

What the law didn’t make quite clear was how the state planned to accomplish those lofty goals. Over the past week, it has filled in some details. 

At the end of December, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a draft of a scoping plan by the NY Climate Action Council, as well as an updated greenhouse gas emissions inventory and a report that examines how climate change disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities. 

More recently, on Wednesday (Jan. 5), Gov. Kathy Hochul laid out in her State of the State address plans to make New York “the renewable energy capital of the nation.”

Hochul’s proposal includes investing at least $1 billion to support electric vehicle infrastructure, envisioning fast-charging stations deployed along highway corridors. The chargers will be needed, since she plans on having the state’s vehicle fleet and all school buses electrified by 2035. The governor also recently enacted legislation that requires all new passenger vehicles sold after 2034 in New York to be zero-emissions.

The greenhouse gas emissions report calculated that 28 percent of the state’s emissions are coming from transportation, and that total emissions have fallen 17 percent since 2005. The state’s abundant forests and wetlands are naturally removing about 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration. 

Although the state has completed a greenhouse gas inventory every year for decades, this marks the first time that it was done within the framework of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, said Maureen Leddy, director of the DEC’s Office of Climate Change. Unlike in the past, it took into account “upstream” emissions, or those emissions made out of state in order to bring energy into New York. 

“This is about more than just what we burn in the state,” Leddy explained. “It’s the entire process of extracting, transporting and delivering that fuel to New York. That’s a cumulative impact that we need to be accounting for.”

How To Comment

To read the scoping plan, see climate.ny.gov.

To comment, visit bit.ly/scoping-comment or write:

Draft Scoping Plan Comments
NYSERDA
17 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY 12203-6399

All comments will be posted to the New York State Climate Act website.

Once the upstream emissions were included, the scoping plan demands for increased in-state renewable energy and fewer plants powered by imported natural gas became clear. By losing the combustion emissions from fossil fuels and the associated upstream emissions from those fuels, “you get a big decline,” Leddy said.

Another target is methane, the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Methane traps 25 times the amount of heat that carbon dioxide does, but fades in the atmosphere after nine years, while carbon dioxide can stick around for centuries. “We’ll see a lot quicker reaction by reducing methane,” said Leddy. 

The natural gas industry is a significant source of methane, but so are landfills, where decaying trash can emit methane for as long as 30 years. Agriculture, specifically cows, are another significant source, and the scoping report notes that diverting waste from landfills and “alternative manure management and animal feeding” practices will be critical in hitting the state targets. 

There’s another leakage addressed by the scoping plan: that of industry leaving the state as a result of its aggressive climate plans. 

The plan shares strategies to address this, including financial and technical assistance. “It doesn’t help anybody” if businesses move to a state with fewer environmental regulations, said Leddy. “We don’t want to drive businesses out of the state as a result of this law; we want it to be an economic opportunity.”

The state is accepting public comment on the 861-page scoping plan through April. Leddy encourages people to focus on sections in which they have personal interest or expertise “because it covers everything! It’s power sectors, it’s agriculture, it’s forestry, it’s waste, it’s everything.”

She added: “A lot of climate discussions tend to be pretty negative or focused on sacrifice. There’s a lot of positive opportunities here. When you think about electric school buses, it’s not only about greenhouse gas emissions, but also that you don’t have schoolchildren inhaling particulate matter from diesel. I think those health benefits matter to people a lot.”

Click to hear this post.

Leave a Reply

The Current welcomes comments on its coverage and local issues. Submissions are selected by the editor to provide a variety of opinions and voices, and all are subject to editing for accuracy, clarity and length. We ask that writers remain civil and avoid personal attacks. Submissions must include your first and last name (no pseudonyms), as well as a valid email address (which will not be published). Please allow up to 24 hours for an approved submission to be posted. All online comments may also appear in print.