In his State of the State speech, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “First thing we have to learn is to accept the fact, and I believe it is a fact, that climate change is real. It’s inarguable that the sea is warmer and that there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now.” And, he is taking action. Bloomberg News reports that he’s proposed taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the carbon cap for the cap-and-trade program in the Northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Cap-and-trade is a market-based approach that controls carbon dioxide emissions by giving an economic incentive to reduce them. This system sets a limit — or cap — on the amount of carbon that can be emitted, and then selling or trading allowances to those that wish to exceed the cap. The revenue generated by the RGGI primarily goes to support clean energy projects in the six New England member states — and New York, Delaware and Maryland — as well as helping low-income people pay their utility bills. The last auction raised $38.1 million.
In addition to lowering the cap, Cuomo announced a $1 billion green bank and a $1.5 billion solar program. He said the bank would leverage private capital to mitigate the risks of investments, spur market activity and lower borrowing costs, and bring prices down for consumers. The solar program was created last year and its goal is to quadruple the amount of solar capacity in the state this year. The Governor wants to extend the program through 2023. It is currently set to expire in 2015.
Cuomo has been out front in the fight to bring climate change back on the radar of people in his state and around the country. Following the devastating Hurricane Sandy, the Governor penned an op-ed for the New York Daily News, saying the state would be taking a leadership role in addressing our changing climate. In it he said:
“Extreme weather is the new normal. In the past two years, we have had two storms, each with the odds of a 100-year occurrence. Debating why does not lead to solutions — it leads to gridlock. The denial and deliberation from extremists on both sides about the causes of climate change are distracting us from addressing its inarguable effects. Recent events demand that we get serious once and for all.
“We need to act, not simply react.”
He called for updating building codes in the state to reduce energy waste. He also wants to fortify existing infrastructure — including the electrical grid, mass transit, and communications networks — to ensure that existing systems are ready for the new climate reality. In conclusion he said:
“We are the state that built the Erie Canal, opening up commerce to the West. We built a subway system so extensive that its 800 miles of track could run from New York all the way to Chicago.
“Time and again, we pushed boundaries and broke records. We have been tested before, and we have always risen to the challenge. We will not allow the national paralysis over climate change to stop us from pursuing the necessary path for the future.”
One thing is certain, with a divided Congress and partisan paralysis in Washington, D.C., leadership from Governors and other state leaders will be vital to reducing emissions in our country and ensuring we are ready for droughts, floods, superstorms, rising sea-levels and extreme weather events.