Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off 2018 by unveiling a suite of modest climate and energy policies as part of his annual State of the State address. But while Cuomo has garnered national praise for shaming the Trump administration on climate change, the truth is that the New York governor can—and must—do more than issue cheap sound bites.
The climate crisis demands ambitious action to move off fossil fuels, but the weak proposals in Governor Cuomo’s “Clean Energy Jobs and Climate Agenda” fall well short of what is necessary to prevent further catastrophe.
Creating incentives to expand wind energy and developing programs to help low-income New Yorkers access solar power are steps in the right direction. But real leadership demands much more. The governor should declare an end to fossil fuel projects, such as pipelines and power plants that transport and burn fracked gas from Pennsylvania.
He has not done that. Instead, Cuomo touts some ways to tinker with carbon market schemes to reduce emissions, or insists that the state divest pension investments from fossil fuel companies. Meanwhile, he is either supporting, or failing to actively oppose, proposals across New York that would deepen our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, from the Williams Pipeline off the coast of New York City, to the massive CPV and Cricket Valley fracked gas power plants, to the proposal to power Albany’s Empire State Complex with a gas-fired micro-grid.
Talking the talk, but failing to walk the walk, simply won’t cut it. Cuomo should commit to end all new fossil fuel projects in New York, and start the transition of our state to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.
We are a long way from that goal. Cuomo has never put forward a plan to transition New York to 100 percent renewable energy, the only goal that matters. The next ten years are a critical window during which we must make massive changes to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. That means rapidly ramping up our renewable capacity, which will create thousands of good jobs and be a boon for public health.
Assemblyman William Colton and Senator Brad Hoylman have authored legislation to put New York on an aggressive timeline, bringing the entire state to 100% renewable energy by 2030. With no real chance of progress at the federal level, New York simply can’t settle for half-measures or partial victories. It is time for Cuomo to make a real commitment to move New York off fossil fuels. As someone with well-known presidential aspirations, Cuomo’s leadership on climate change – or the lack of it – is a matter of national concern.