New York approves ambitious climate change plan to lead the US on environment

Clark Mindock

New York politicians have reached a deal to create one of the most ambitious climate bills in the United States, putting the progressive state on the front lines of fight over the environment that has become a major political and moral issue in the country.

The deal, which was struck on Sunday night in Albany, includes some lofty goals like eliminating 85 per cent of the state’s planet-warming emissions by 2050, and for offsetting or capturing the other 15 per cent.

In addition, the legislation requires the state to funnel 35 per cent of the Empire State’s energy funding into low-income, polluted communities across the state. And, all of the state-financed energy efforts must be paid with union wages.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo told local radio WAMC on Monday that he thinks the progressive deal will survive the sometimes vicious statehouse, which Democrats recently took over from Republican control.

“I believe we have an agreement on the climate change bill,” Mr Cuomo said.

The bill has been described by environmental activists as one of the toughest bills in the country for fighting climate change, and was agreed to at the last minute in Albany just minutes before midnight — narrowly avoiding procedural headaches.

State senator Todd Kaminsky, the bill’s lead sponsor, told Huffpost in a phone interview that the legislation is just the beginning of a movement in the US.

“New York has a larger economy than some countries, so we can have a big impact, not only reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but showing other states the way forward,” Mr Kaminksy said. “It’s the beginning of a Herculean effort to transform the economy.”

The bill has invited comparisons to a national effort to curb climate change introduced in Congress by another New Yorker, representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s bill, known as the Green New Deal, calls for a massive transformation of the economy, and pays special attention to the environmental injustices endured by people of colour in the United States.

The bill was first introduced in 2016, but Democrats had largely been stymied in their attempts to pass meaningful progressive priorities as a result of Republican control in the state legislature until this year, when Democrats took control for the first time in years.

As a result, Democrats have passed a slew of progressive priorities that had been bogged down, including protections for immigrants, abortion rights, and others.