Fossil-Free Future Campaign

March 31, 2022


The climate crisis threatens our planet and everyone’s health. This year, the United Nations stated that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 or we will not have a livable planet:

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres states: “[It is] code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.” Recently, Mr. Guterres intensified his clarion call, stating, “Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”

Buoyed by your critical support, NYPIRG’s Fossil-Free Future Campaign endeavors to make New York State a national and global leader in the fight to combat the devastating effects of climate change. Future generations are depending on us to protect them from climate catastrophe caused by global warming.

The greatest environmental threat facing the planet:

Across the United States, temperature changes, coastal flooding, roaring wildfires, and threatened drinking water supplies are just a few of the projected impacts of climate change in the 21st century. 2021 recorded the hottest June on record, and the biggest climate and weather disasters of the year – including Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the west – cost the U.S. $145 billion. Climate change is having devastating impacts on New York’s economy, infrastructure, public health, coastal areas, and natural ecosystems. The state experienced 51 billion-dollar weather disaster events due to the climate crisis from 2000 to 2021 at an estimated cost of $50-$100 billion, according to a recent federal report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The role of the fossil fuel industry:

Since the 1970s, the fossil fuel industry has known the environmental risks associated with burning fossil fuels and accurately predicted the timetable in which those changes would occur. Avoiding responsibility, the industry used its considerable clout to withhold the evidence from the public, undermine climate science, and hire consultants and lobbyists to derail health and environmental reforms.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act:

New York State enacted the trailblazing Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes goals of net zero greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 2050, and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. Even sooner, by 2030, the law mandates interim targets of 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of all New York’s electricity coming from renewable sources.

2030 is only 7 years away. Any delay will mean more deaths, human suffering, and staggering costs from flooding, storms, and heatwaves. New York has the tools, know-how, and policy proposals to lead the nation with the implementation of its landmark Climate Act. However, the state will not meet its climate goals, or align with the recommendations of global climate scientists, if fossil fuel infrastructure is expanded. 

Fossil-Free Future Campaign goals and objectives:

Achieving the goals of the CLCPA will require an aggressive approach and a deep commitment by New York State’s leaders. There can be no half measures. To ensure that the state rises to this critical challenge, NYPIRG’s Fossil-Free Future Campaign has adopted a multi-pronged strategy:

1. Holding corporate polluters responsible for their role in the climate crisis: The costs of the climate crisis in New York are tremendous – it is estimated that at least $10 billion a year is needed to protect New Yorkers from the impacts of the climate crisis and to combat the climate crisis. We are calling for the creation of a “Climate Change Superfund,” modeled after the existing Superfund programs, as a way to raise funds for the state’s adaptation efforts in response to more frequent extreme storms, flooding, and other global warming impacts.

The Climate Change Superfund Act requires big oil companies to pay for damages caused by the climate crisis, with protections so that costs will not be passed on to consumers. Looking at past greenhouse gas emissions, this legislation will generate $3 billion a year and $75 billion in revenue over 25 years to fund climate protection and assistance programs, especially for disadvantaged and environmental justice communities. This Act could fund massive statewide upgrades to roads, bridges, subways, and transit systems; unprecedented upgrades to storm water drainage and sewage treatment systems; preparing the power grid for stronger hurricanes and other severe storms; new systems to protect state residents from more frequent and deadly heatwaves; and responses to environmental and public health threats, such as algal blooms caused by a rapidly heating planet.

Additionally, tax subsidies and tax-exemption loopholes for the fossil fuel industry should be eliminated, and other measures to recoup windfall profits that the oil industry has received in recent years should be developed – and done so in a manner that protects consumers.

2. Tackling greenhouse gas emissions from buildings: Buildings are New York State and City’s top source of climate pollution. The International Energy Agency recently released a report stating that there cannot be new development of oil and gas fields, and have recommended a ban on gas and oil furnaces in new construction globally by 2025. A common sense and necessary solution is mandating that all new construction rely on electricity instead of fossil fuels.

VICTORY! After a hard fought campaign led in part by NYPIRG, New York has passed the first state law to ban new fossil fuel hookups and mandate electricity for new construction, following New York City’s footsteps.

Additionally, in 2019, New York City passed Local Law 97 to reduce emissions from existing large buildings. Buildings in New York City above 25,000 square feet must reduce their pollution to 2024 and 2030 benchmarks, or face fees for non-compliance. This landmark law is being implemented now and we are tracking the roll-out to make sure that it is implemented fully, without loopholes or giveaways to the real estate lobby.

3. Halting investment in fossil fuel infrastructure: New York will not break free from fossil fuels if it continues to provide permits or funding for fossil fuel infrastructure. NYPIRG helped win several recent environmental victories when New York denied permits for two fossil fuel power plants in Astoria, Queens and in Newburgh in the Hudson Valley, halted the proposed Williams oil and gas pipeline, and passed a moratorium on fossil fuel-powered cryptocurrency operations. It is essential for the state to stop approving applications for new fossil fuel projects and to phase out the use of existing facilities. Current efforts are aimed toward the Iroquois Pipeline expansion proposal, a gas pipeline that goes from Canada to New York City, that is seeking permits to expand compressor station operations in the towns of Athens and Dover.

4. Investing in renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and battery storage: New York has not made enough progress expanding solar and wind energy and must put its energy dollars solely toward projects that help achieve the goals of the CLCPA. As we move to electrify buildings and transportation, it is important to make sure that the electricity is not coming from fossil fuels, but rather clean energy sources.

5. Enacting policies that shift the transportation system away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards reliance on electric power: Transportation is the second highest sector responsible for New York’s greenhouse gas emissions at 28%. For decades, NYPIRG has been involved in New York’s adoption of the California auto emission standards. To meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, the state must phase out all fossil fuel vehicles and transition to electric cars and buses. Changes in the state’s transportation system are necessary to develop infrastructure that allows for the easy charging of electric vehicles (of all types), as well as removing obstacles to the purchasing of affordable electric vehicles in the auto marketplace. ​​New York should mandate that vehicles sold are 100% electric no later than 2035.

6. Calling for transparency and accountability measures so that the public knows if New York is meeting its climate goals: For each of the last three years, NYPIRG released a “Climate Scorecard” to assess New York’s progress on climate goals, and we sent a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos calling for more transparency. NYPIRG is calling on the Climate Action Council (established within the CLCPA to develop details in order to implement the law) to create a public “climate scorecard” to both ensure that the public can easily access information on the state’s progress toward meeting its goals under the CLCPA, and to hold state government accountable to ensure that it does meet its goals. New York State currently has an Energy Dashboard that contains some of the elements of a scorecard (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Energy Dashboard), which can be expanded to cover more climate metrics.

We need your support to win:

To combat the powerful oil and gas lobby, New Yorkers must let their leaders know in no uncertain terms that they support strong climate policies. NYPIRG has a vast network of tens of thousands community supporters and college student volunteers, and in 2023 we will continue to activate this powerful statewide network on this critical issue – sharing opportunities for public comments, social media days of action, call-in drives, media events, community meetings, and more. That is where you come in…

Winning on all of this – along with our continued work on public health, government reform, consumer and voting rights, higher education, mass transit, and more – will only be possible if we have the grassroots support that we need to go up against the politically powerful. Your help will be essential as we take on the polluters, well-heeled lobbyists, and those public officials who put their own interests ahead of the public interest. Please support our Fossil-Free Future Campaign:

Thank you for your support!