New York’s stunning new climate goals

The New York state legislature has just passed a new climate law that includes one of the most ambitious renewable energy mandates in the country. Under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act – which Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign –  the state’s utilities would have to source 70 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030. The new measure puts New York on track to achieve zero carbon electricity by 2040, and net zero emissions across the economy by 2050 (net zero in this case allows carbon offsets from forestry and agriculture).

While New York doesn’t now shoot to the head of the line with the most ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard in the country (Vermont and the District of Columbia still have higher goals), some analysts have pointed out that the state’s large population makes New York’s commitment more significant. And, as the third largest economy in the US, New York is more likely to have a major influence on energy markets and national policy. The new bill is a big environmental justice win since it targets more than a third of the state’s investments in climate and clean energy programs to disadvantaged communities. New York also has significant interim goals for deployment of renewable energy and storage including:

  • 6 GW of distributed solar by 2025
  • 3 GW of energy storage by 2030
  • 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035

So far renewable energy only makes up about a quarter of New York’s generation resources, and much of that is hydropower. So the new mandate for distributed solar within the next five years will be just one part of a major effort that poses a serious challenge. A 22-member Climate Action Council will determine how to reduce emissions across the economy, and integrate the new law with many other existing climate and clean energy policies in effect.

New York w/ fireworks
Image courtesy of Vox Media

Now two of the largest economies in the US – New York and California – have laid down the gauntlet to be carbon neutral by the middle of the century. According to Vox Media “Just getting to 85 percent carbon-free will be an enormous lift for an industrialized economy like New York’s. This is the most stringent economy-wide carbon target in the US, in one of the most challenging states. It’s a new benchmark.”