Inspired by AOC, New York State mulls its own Green New Deal

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocates for a “Green New Deal” in Congress, New York lawmakers are pushing for similar initiatives to address climate change at a state level. 

A bill introduced in the New York Assembly and Senate would create a task force to come up with a plan for New York to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral by 2030, the same goal Ocasio-Cortez has put forward for the entire country.

“We only have a window of opportunity to do this,” Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, the sponsor of New York’s bill, said Tuesday. 

State lawmakers have been working on climate change legislation “for many years,” Ortiz said, and after the Bronx first-term congresswoman introduced the Green New Deal resolution, they decided to adopt some of the same concepts. “The Green New Deal will place New York State on track to be fully powered by renewable energy by 2030 and help protect our residents, our state, and our future,” he said.

The goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 stems from an October 2018 United Nations report that said the world must reduce emissions in the next 12 years to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. If that temperature goes even half a degree higher, it severely worsens the impacts of global warming, including rising sea levels, more extreme storms, wildfires and drought, the UN report says.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, questioned how to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at a news conference Monday. 

“I would support a national framework that was feasible,” he said. “The problem has always been the how, not the goal. I get the goal —- zero carbon emissions. Yes. How?”

Cuomo put forward his own goals for the state as part of his 2019 budget proposal in January. He called for a Climate Action Council to develop a plan to make New York carbon neutral, but did not specify when the state would reach that goal. 

He is pushing for New York’s electricity to be 70 percent renewable by 2030 and for the state to have completely carbon-free power by 2040, but that goal does not include cutting greenhouse gases from other sources like automobiles. 

Ortiz maintained that New York should aim for the more aggressive goal of 2030 for net-zero emissions. 

“The UN has been very clear on the 12-year timetable,” he said. “We have to be aggressive.”