When you think of states that are leading on climate change, you might think of Hawaii, Vermont, or California. All three states have a law requiring them to produce half (or more) of their electricity with renewable energy in the coming years. New York hasn’t been that far behind — but if a new campaign is successful, it might be a competitor for first or second place.
A diverse coalition of environmentalists, labor unions, climate justice organizations, and faith groups are pushing New York state to commit to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, with a benchmark of 50 percent by 2030. The target would put New York just behind Hawaii, which has a law requiring the state to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
The coalition just launched a new campaign this week called New York Renews. The best part is that they’re pushing a climate campaign that incorporates both environmental justice and economic justice. The campaign calls for polluters to pay a fee that will go to environmental justice communities who will be disproportionately impacted by climate change and for worker protection for thousands of clean energy jobs in the state.
For people like Rachel Rivera, a member of NY Communities for Change who was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, the push for climate justice is urgent. “I lost everything during Sandy and I cannot afford to lose it again, nor can thousands of working families who are just starting to recover. If we do not want another Sandy, New York needs to commit [to] reducing emissions and set a path to clean energy,” she said.
The campaign brings in people like labor justice organizers — who see clean energy as a way to advocate for healthy jobs for their members — as new allies for environmentalists. “New York’s workers need a safe environment and a safe climate as much as anyone,” George Miranda, the president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, said. “Our members work in transportation, energy, waste, and other sectors that are central to solving the climate crisis.” The coalition also includes chapters of labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union, Communications Workers of America, and the United Automobile Workers.
Of course, New York already has a renewable portfolio standard that it hasn’t met yet, so it’s not just a question of setting high targets, but also meeting them.
Possibly the best part of the campaign is that it’s pushing for these targets of 100 percent clean energy to be legally enforceable. There will most likely be some backlash coming — how exactly will the fossil fuel industry and their lobbyists try to water down this legislation? Time will tell.