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How New York plans to reach state's ambitious climate goals through decades of transition

The Climate Action Council in Albany on Monday, December 19, 2022
WMHT
The Climate Action Council in Albany on Monday, December 19, 2022.

New York now has a plan for how the state will reach its ambitious climate goals, established through law, after a council of stakeholders established in statute voted to approve that strategy Monday.

The Climate Action Council approved what’s called a scoping plan, a document that lays out New York’s energy goals — and plots a course for how to achieve them.

“My vote for this plan is about making sure that we make measurable progress to achieve our state principles,” said Doreen Harris, president of NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“Our actions will launch new innovations in markets and technologies — some of which we do not yet understand how they will be integrated into our thinking. And that should be our emphasis here. We are progressing, and we will be learning.”

The plan will implement a series of climate standards established under the Climate Act, a law approved a few years ago by the state Legislature to reduce the state’s carbon impact, and prepare for a future affected by climate change.

New York has a goal for its economy to be carbon neutral by 2050, for example, and is seeking to produce 70% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Beyond that, New York has a goal of eliminating carbon emissions from the production of electricity entirely by 2040.

“All that remains is our need to find a will to see this through — to fulfill the promise of the law,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “I think this will be one of the most consequential actions that we have ever undertaken as a state.”

Of the Climate Action Council’s 22 members, including the two co-chairs, only three voted against the scoping plan Monday.

Among them was Gavin Donohue, president of Independent Power Producers of New York, a trade group representing power suppliers in New York. Donohue said the plan didn’t adequately address issues like energy reliability and the cost to suppliers.

“The ramifications of this plan do not just impact the energy sector, they will affect the entire New York state economy,” Donohue said. “Reliability is paramount and is not adequately addressed.”

The plan, which can be read in its entirety online, includes a long-term strategy for the state to generate reliable energy through renewable sources, re-tool buildings to be more energy efficient and equipped with smart climate technologies, create greater access for electric vehicles, and more.