Tue. Aug 16th, 2022

When New York adopted the Landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) in 2019, the state not only set a national model for combating climate change, it embarked on a path toward a clean energy future that will bring multiple long-term benefits to New Yorkers.

It will mean lower energy bills and more stable prices over the long term. It will mean more and better jobs. It will mean a stronger and more innovative economy. It will mean cleaner air and healthier people. And it will help reduce the mounting costs of climate change. So it’s not surprising that fossil fuel industries with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo have been trying to derail the plan, out of fear they are losing consumers to cleaner, more cost-effective energy sources.

Worried they should be. Fuel costs have been spiking over the last year, once again – and people are feeling the burn at the pump and in their energy bills. People worldwide have been horrified by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, which has been bankrolled with oil and gas money. Extreme weather events – from heat and hurricanes to floods and storms – are impacting the lives and livelihoods of more and more New Yorkers.

Put simply: It is getting harder and harder for fossil fuels to compete when clean energy offers a better alternative to endless price spikes, chaos, suffering and war. Turbocharging those alternatives is the cornerstone of New York’s climate law. And this kind of state climate leadership is more important than ever in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling narrowing federal options for action.

Specifically, the CLCPA is speeding up the transition to renewable electricity and electrifying transportation and buildings throughout the state, recognizing the importance of investing in our systems and aging infrastructure now and for the future.

This includes building enough solar, and onshore and offshore wind energy to meet at least 70% of our electricity needs by 2030. It includes shifting to electric cars, buses and trucks, and away from dirty diesel and gasoline. It includes bringing clean electric heating and hot water systems into our buildings, along with induction cooking – and moving away from fossil fuel use in the places where we live and work.

Additionally, under this plan, the state will stop building out unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure that would be retired soon, yet burden energy customers for decades to come.

All of this is good news for New Yorkers in so many ways.

For starters, it means big savings. Improving energy efficiency in new buildings and equipment alone will save people $ 15 billion over the next 15 years while improving the comfort and value of their homes. And transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar will protect New Yorkers from volatile and unpredictable fossil fuel prices like those we’ve been experiencing this past year.

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It will create more jobs in a thriving industry. New York already ranks third in the nation for employing workers in clean energy jobs, and under the CLCPA, the state is expected to add 200,000 more jobs by 2030. This is an enormous opportunity to employ residents and to apply today’s skills in growth industries, from the construction of offshore wind facilities, to the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and efficient electric heat pumps.

It will cut pollution from fossil fuels and help us all breathe better. That means fewer hospital visits for respiratory illnesses like asthma, fewer premature deaths and lower health-care costs.

It will prioritize delivering these benefits to the low-income communities and communities of color who have had to live with the highest levels of health-harming fossil fuel pollution for too long. That includes delivering quality of life benefits like increased access to clean transportation and air conditioning to those who need it most – literally a life-saver as climate change brings more deadly heat each summer. It also includes lowering energy costs in affordable housing units.

And it will help reduce the costs of climate change that will only continue to grow if left unaddressed. In fact, the state’s analysis shows the CLCPA will save more than $ 100 billion by reducing economic damage caused by the climate crisis and easing the health impacts of air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.

New York’s detailed plan is based on extensive data and years of rigorous analysis by the state, as well as input from dozens of experts and scores of stakeholders. And in addition to leveraging public funding for the plan, the state can tap into capital from the private sector, which sees an opportunity to invest for the future.

New York’s plan provides a strong path forward to deliver a cleaner, healthier, more equitable and affordable future for all New Yorkers. This is the direction we must continue heading, at full speed.

Bapna is an economist and the president and CEO of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

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