CLIMATE CRISIS ALERT! The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report resulted in a clarion call from the report’s co-chair: “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F); without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
Spring is a time for new beginnings, so it is the perfect opportunity to announce an exciting – and urgent – new statewide initiative: NYPIRG’s Fossil-Free Future Campaign. Buoyed by your critical support, we endeavor 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 a climate catastrophe caused by global warming – which is threatening to make large swaths of the planet uninhabitable.
The greatest environmental threat facing the planet:
The accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing extreme weather events, harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels. According to the October 2018 IPCC report, global warming must be limited to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial temperatures, instead of the previously stated 2°C (3.6°F), if catastrophic results are to be avoided.
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 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. New York City also has a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. However, the state and city will not meet their 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:
- 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, and halted the proposed Williams oil and gas pipeline. NYPIRG will continue to work to stop development of or investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. Current efforts in 2022 are aimed toward the Greenidge Generating Station, a gas-fired power plant located in the Town of Dresden that is seeking a Title V permit for cryptomining. “Proof of work” cryptomining uses exorbitant amounts of energy and actively works against the goals of the CLCPA. There is currently legislation that would enact a moratorium on proof of work cryptomining until a thorough environmental review is concluded. We simply cannot meet our climate goals if our electricity sector has to compete with the cryptomining industry for energy sources.
- Investing in renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and battery storage: New York has made a large investment in offshore wind projects and must continue to 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 displaced fossil fuels, but rather clean energy sources.
- Pressing for funding for environmental programs and for policies that hold corporate polluters responsible for their role in the climate crisis: 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 due to the Russian war on Ukraine should be developed – and done so in a manner that protects consumers. And we are calling for the creation of a “Climate Crisis Superfund,” modeled after the Superfund program, as a way to raise funds for the state’s mitigation efforts in response to more frequent extreme storms, flooding, and other global warming impacts.
- Enacting policies that shift the transportation system away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards reliance on electric power: For decades, NYPIRG has been involved in New York’s adoption of the California auto emission standards. 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.
- Mandating all-electric construction on new buildings and major renovations: 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. More and more cities across the United States are adopting or considering policies to ban new fossil fuel hookups and mandate electricity for new construction – including New York City recently. NYPIRG, in coalition, was instrumental in the New York City victory, and our goal for 2022 is to win a similar victory at the state level, where legislation is being considered.
- Calling for transparency and accountability measures so that the public knows if New York is meeting its climate goals: For each of the last two 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.
- Demonstrating strong public support for climate solutions: 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 2022 we will continue to activate this powerful statewide network to civically engage 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…
We need your support to win:
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 by:
- Contacting us to get involved.
- Joining our Community Action Network.
- Donating to keep us strong and effective.