Perhaps it’s the nostalgic high from the 50th anniversary of the moonwalk last weekend, but we believe New York is ready to go where no state has gone before.
Not a voyage to Mars, but the preservation of the Earth.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the most aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions of any state in the country last week, so pardon us for applying those historic words to a new goal in New York: “That’s one small step for the state, one giant leap for mankind.”
It is a start, a direction that will probably be fraught with missteps, but we must begin the journey to safeguard the future of our planet.
The passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act sets the most ambitious reductions in greenhouse gases of any state in the nation, and it comes at a time when the federal government is going in exactly the opposite direction.
This gives us some hope.
It comes with cheers from some sectors and fears from others.
And while the “how” is murky, so was walking on the moon 60 years ago.
“Meeting the goals will require breaking a lot of eggs to make the omelet,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, to Politico. “A massive increase in distributed solar will raise hackles in some places. Offshore wind and the necessary transmission lines will raise other hackles. There are going to be a lot of fights along the way and we’re going to have to see how much gumption the state has to fight those fights.”
The new law requires New York to:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050.
- Get 70% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy systems by 2030.
- Eliminate all carbon emissions for electricity generation by 2040.
Many wonder if New York has the will to pull it off, but we believe this is the new moonshot; this is what needs to be done to preserve quality of life for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We were discouraged to learn that Sen. Betty Little voted against the climate goals over fears it would raise energy prices too high in the rural regions of her district.
It is a legitimate concern and one of the eggs that may need to be cracked as the state moves forward. What we think Sen. Little has not taken into account is innovation.
The Empire Center, who we respect enormously for its ability in calculating costs, figures that solar and wind farms could cost as much as $48 billion in upfront expenses and another $1 billion a year to operate. But it also acknowledged that the cost of wind and solar installation have been dropping rapidly in cost in recent years.
New innovation and inventions could make the price more affordable, but we are under no illusions when it comes to expense. At some point, each and every one of us will have to pay the price — either now in developing new technologies, or later in cleaning up the damage caused by not doing it.
It’s the most important reason to support the new initiative.
A new 22-member New York State Climate Action Council has three years to recommend mandates and regulations to make it work. Sen. Little also voted against the council, saying that the Legislature should have that authority.
With all due respect to Sen. Little, we would not trust the Legislature with that duty. The success of the council will depend enormously on who serves on the panel and what their motivations, but this is one issue that can no longer be politicized.
In 1961, President Kennedy proclaimed “I believe we should go to the moon” without any idea how to do it.
We are in the same boat when it comes to addressing climate change. It is important that New York has set the goal, even if it doesn’t know how to do it or what it will cost.