32BJ SEIU members (281439)
Credit: Facebook/32BJ SEIU

Ambitious is an understatement.

With the goal of making the economy carbon neutral, Albany legislators passed the Climate Action & Leadership Protection Act during the last stretch of the latest session.

According to elected officials, the bill includes a requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent and obtain 70 percent of the state’s electricity by 2030 moving to 100 percent clean power by 2040. Legislators want to make the economy carbon neutral by 2050.

The legislation also states that a minimum of 35 percent of clean energy and energy efficiency funds collected will be directed toward disadvantaged communities aiming for a 40 percent investment. There will also be the creation of a 22-member Climate Action Council to develop plans and recommendations on how to achieve the bill’s goals.

The bill is co-sponsored by New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky and New York State Assembly Member Steve Englebright.

32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said Albany needed to think big on climate change and they followed through.

“By setting an overall goal of 100 percent emission reduction by 2050, along with other measures, this bill sets the strongest emission reduction standards in the country—exactly the kind of big, bold action we need to take in order to reverse the effects of climate change before it’s too late,” stated Figueroa. “As the leader of a union that has long embraced environmental justice and strong, family-sustaining jobs for our communities, I’m gratified to see New York showing that real action against inequity and environmental destruction is not only necessary but doable.”

New York State will invest in offshore wind farms and rooftop solar projects to offset the fact that the state gets almost 60 percent of electricity from carbon-free sources. The bill also contains parts of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal including taking millions of dollars into environmentally vulnerable areas.

“This is a huge win for New Yorkers, giving us the strongest, most aggressive climate legislation in the nation,” stated Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director and director of policy initiatives at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “It is not perfect, and there are many critical issues regarding equity and a just transition which we will need to keep fighting for, such as mandating that 40 percent of the funds collected from ratepayers for energy efficiency and renewables be invested in low-income communities and communities of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by climate change. But even though this legislation does not include everything we want, it is still worth celebrating.”

State Democrats have worked on a new green deal for New York for a while, but were stifled by the Independent Democratic Conference. Once members of the IDC were voted out of office, advocates were able to push Albany to vote and eventually pass climate action legislation. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo was pushed farther to the left by a combination of progressive Democrats, elected officials and the candidacy of actress Cynthia Nixon. At the end of the legislative session, the governor said he was happy with what elected officials accomplished.

“Six months ago we laid out our 2019 Justice Agenda—an aggressive blueprint to move New York forward—and today I’m proud to say we got it done,” Cuomo said. “At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you accomplish, and this was the most progressively productive legislative session in modern history. The product was extraordinary, and we maintained our two pillars—fiscal responsibility and economic growth paired with social progress on an unprecedented and nation-leading scale.”