While we’ve been rightly worried about social distancing and whether to freeze our gym memberships, the state’s Climate Council has been meeting to talk about carbon reduction. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was signed into law in 2019

  • The CLCPA created a Climate Council, which has met 3 times this year

  • The Climate Council is led by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and Doreen Harris, acting president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

  • With the help of about 100 volunteers, the Climate Council has formed 7 advisory groups. Each group is comprised of stakeholders in areas including transportation, agriculture, power generation, local government, housing, etc.

  • For more information, visit climate.ny.gov

Back in July of 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which mandates an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040, and 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. 

Since the numbers are hard to wrap your mind around, think of it like this: The Climate Council, which will create the blueprint for carbon reduction, has seven advisory groups. Each group (which includes “Transportation,” “Agriculture and Forestry,” “Land Use and Local Government,” and “Power Generation,” etc.) is tasked with cutting carbon within their industry. 

Eventually, these decisions will affect you and your family.

The advisory group on transportation, for example, is in charge of how we can decarbonize the entire transportation sector, which is all 11.2 million vehicles registered in New York. The group is also tasked with increasing mass transit.

While the CLCPA was passed by a bipartisan vote, the Assembly minority recently released a statement on the act, pointing out that the state’s financial circumstances have changed.

“There are countless unknowns associated with this misguided environmental legislation, but one thing is certain: The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act will make our climb to economic recovery impossible.”

The Assembly minority, led by Leader Will Barclay, also pointed to a June 2019 report from the Empire Center for Public Policy, which found:“New York is responsible for less than one-half of 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If these changes were to take place, New York would only stand to reduce global emissions by 0.4 percent at the expense of billions and billions of dollars, and a massive disruption to our current way of life”

While the first two meetings of the Climate Council were largely ministerial, the last meeting, which took place last Monday, was a turning point, according to Peter Iwanowicz, the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York and a member of the Climate Council. 

“This last meeting was about running through the various panels we have to set up under law that are going to get down into the weeds of how we’re going to transition all sectors of the economy off fossil fuels,” he told Spectrum News.

Iwanowicz says that while no real climate change work has gotten done yet, with the advisory groups formed, things are about to take place.

“What’s really exciting now is the panels have been formed and we’ve got, right off the top, one hundred people who’ve said yes, and are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work,” according to Iwanowicz. “My hope is that those meetings will begin to be scheduled for September.”

The goal is to move from where we are now to a completely decarbonized economy across all sectors. It’s a massive undertaking, made all the more difficult both financially and politically by COVID-19.

According to Iwanowicz, COVID-19 makes this massive lift a lot heavier, but not impossible.

“We’re obviously in the middle of a pandemic, and people probably haven’t been thinking about what’s powering their cars and the furnace in their basement. They’re just trying to get by day to day,” he said. “But pretty quickly, we need to have a broad conversation about what this law does, [and] the transformation this will have for literally everybody that lives and works and plays in New York right now.”

In other words: “It’s time to have serious dialogue with the public,” said Iwanowicz.