Should New York issue $4.2 billion in new bonds to pay for projects related to greenhouse gas emissions, flood risk, clean water, land conservation, and other climate-related matters? That is one of the things that New Yorkers were asked to decide in this year’s elections.
The “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act” has already passed in the legislature, and last year New York voters approved a new statewide referendum guaranteeing a constitutional right to clean air and water, and a healthy environment.
This week, New Yorkers approved the Bond Act with a clear majority voting “yes” on Proposition 1.
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This year we’ve once again seen record-breaking temperatures, droughts, destructive storms and climate-related fatalities across the U.S. Increasingly, the belief that human industrial activity is driving extreme weather events is becoming more mainstream. And while Democratic voters are still the most motivated to vote based on climate concerns, every year they are joined by more independents and Republicans. In the upcoming midterm elections, half of registered voters have indicated that climate change anxiety will impact their vote for Congress, according to a recent Washington Post- ABC News poll.
In the past, younger voters have been more worried about climate change than older generations, but this year voters of all ages expressed similar concerns when it comes to the environment. Communities of color, who face disparate effects of climate change, including inferior air quality, unsafe drinking water and other environmental hazards, express greater concerns than white Americans. And while climate concerns lag behind economic ones for most voters, the number who say that addressing climate change is “one of the most important issues” in their vote is similar to the number who cite crime and immigration as most important.
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At the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency did not have the authority to mandate emissions from power plants in West Virginia v. EPA. This decision has been widely seen as a blow to the country’s ability to meet its climate goals, which would also give other countries an excuse not to meet their own.
But now some states are responding by introducing climate amendments to their constitutions, enshrining the right to a clean and healthy environment in their own Bills of Rights.
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On April 4th, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, and the message was clear: If governments and industry act now-right now!-mitigating some of the effects from global warming is still possible. But we are drawing ever nearer to the point when even that won’t be possible, and humanity will be set on a chaotic and dangerous course.
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a livable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”
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New York’s climate goals are some of the most ambitious in the nation: by law, the state needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and shift to a completely clean, emissions-free electricity economy by 2050, and get to 70% renewable generation by 2030. And to reach that goal, state agencies and private companies have been ramping up renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. Solar One has been involved in this change almost since its inception, playing a role in getting New York’s first net metering law passed, which paved the way for a renewable revolution, and our Here Comes Solar, Green Design Lab and Workforce Training programs have all been playing roles in this historic transition ever since, as have our staff who work on NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
Sounds pretty promising, doesn’t it? However, there’s a catch. Most of the renewable generation being developed in New York is located upstate, where space is plentiful and land is relatively cheap. But the need for power is greatest in NYC, and the transmission lines tasked with moving the power down to us just can’t handle that many electrons.
In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced two huge transmission-line projects to help bridge that divide, a step that environmental advocates hope is a sign that she is accelerating the state’s efforts to address climate change and environmental inequities.
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The 26th annual United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, commonly known as COP26, is coming to a close. According to the latest analysis by Climate Action Tracker, new pledges announced on methane, coal, transportation and deforestation could bring the world 9% closer to meeting the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s not enough to prevent a climate catastrophe, but at least we would be heading in the right direction.
The world’s most respected climate analysis coalition says the sectoral commitments announced in Glasgow represent potential cuts of 2.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the emissions of Germany, Japan and the UK combined, or 20,000 fully loaded aircraft carriers. This is in addition to measures previously outlined in national climate plans.
However, this is dependent on governments keeping their climate promises, which almost none have done until now, and it still leaves the world heading towards ever more dangerous levels of heating.
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