New York brands itself a climate change capital. But will it work?

Published on July 16, 2019

The way in which we view our sources of energy is about to change drastically.

In its goal to enact climate change and achieve a net-zero economy by the year 2050, New York State legislation enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law, making it one of the world’s most ambitious climate plans. “This unquestionably puts New York in a global leadership position,” Jesse Jenkins, an energy and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University told the New York Times.

Under the new bill, New York will be required to obtain 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar by 2030. Over the next decade, the state will be required to cut emissions by at least 85 percent below 1990 levels. To offset the remaining 15 percent, measures will be put into effect to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The global geothermal energy market is likely to soar in the future due to the rapid depletion of non-renewable energy sources. In 2018, it was valued at $4 billion and is expected to reach even higher, around $9 billion by the year 2025.

Geothermal energy is a renewable form of energy; one of its greatest advantages is its constant availability. Because of the continuous flow of heat that comes from the Earth, the supply is endless.

On the road to “net-zero carbon”

Ultimately, by 2050 the plan is to have a net-zero carbon economy. What that means essentially is a profound change across the entire economy, doing away with fossil fuels and other sources of emissions. Gone will be the days of gasoline and diesel cars. Instead, vehicles will be required to produce zero emissions. Fossil fuel burning power plants will also be phased out and completely shut down. Oil burning heaters and furnaces would become extinct and all of the state’s electricity would come from carbon-free sources.  The ultimate goal here, slow down the speed at which the Earth is moving towards global warming.

In addition, the bill would also transmit hundreds of millions of dollars into economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, in particular, those at greater risk to storm surges, flooding, and heat. Pollution, and the effects it has taken on the health of residents who live in these areas is another cause for concern.

Climate change and its lasting effects has become such an important issue. Not only are the changes we implement today going to revolutionize our country and our lives, they’re going to have an effect on future generations to come.

State senator Todd Kaminsky says the bill is going to change the way every New Yorker lives. “We are going to be deriving our power from clean energy sources, running our cars on renewable energy, and going to work in buildings that do not emit carbon.”

It is also the first piece of legislation that includes elements of Queens’s representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal which addresses both environmental and economic revival.

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, says this new law will “spur the growth of green jobs across the state for decades.”

The bill is not without is challenges though, and reaching the goals laid out might prove to be challenging. Currently, New York gets approximately 60 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources, mostly from hydroelectric and nuclear power plants. In order to meet its new target, the state plans to invest in large offshore wind farms and increase rooftop solar programs.

An even bigger challenge is the way in which homes and commercial buildings are heated. Currently one quarter of the state’s emissions come from them, so now the issue becomes refitting those systems to run on carbon-free electricity or renewable gas.

Transportation, which makes up one-third of the state’s emissions is going to be a bit tougher to tackle.

Governor Cuomo has stated that the negotiated bill is “the most aggressive climate change program in the United States, period.”

This places New York in the company of California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington, who have all passed bills in preparation for the impact of climate change. On a global level, Great Britain, France, Sweden, New Zealand, and other jurisdictions are aiming for carbon neutrality by the middle the century.

Every day new technology is being discovered which puts us, not just as a state, but the world in general, one step closer to achieving net-zero emissions and creating a healthier world for us and future generations that follow.

Looking for Grit Daily’s latest on brands and their interaction with climate change? Check out the thread, here.

Kathy Hannun is a News Columnist at Grit Daily. She is the CEO of Dandelion Energy, the nation’s leading home geothermal company offering affordability and accessibility.

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