In his 2018 State of the State, Gov. Cuomo announced significant climate initiatives, including his “Clean Energy Jobs and Climate Agenda” and his support for halting new fossil fuel investments in New York State’s retirement fund. For the first time, the Governor’s agenda includes a section called “Leading the Fight Against Climate Change,” a signal that the Governor understands his constituents’ desire for strong action.

We applaud the Governor’s continuing efforts to show leadership on climate change, and we believe his new proposals represent some genuine progress.

However, the proposals are not bold enough to seriously address the climate emergency we face.  As Bill McKibben has written, with climate change “winning slowly is the same as losing.”

Below are 350Brooklyn’s initial reactions to the Governor’s climate proposals. We will watch each proposal as more details emerge, and we stand ready to push for changes.

Offshore wind. The state is to solicit bids in the next two years to develop at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind projects. It will also study the optimal positioning of wind farms off Long Island, which should speed up wind farm development. All this is admirable, and demonstrates New York’s commitment to its target of developing up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. But that target is itself too low. The Long Island Sound alone has the potential to be the “Saudi Arabia” of offshore wind, and we must continue to push for more ambitious targets.

Expansion of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Cuomo would significantly expand this multi-state cap-and-trade program, cutting nearly 133 million tons of CO2 pollution region-wide from the electric power sector. For the first time, RGGI will cover “peaker” power plants, which are often located in or near economically distressed communities and create local pollution that causes asthma and other diseases.  However, the program still does not include methane released by fracked gas infrastructure, which has a more powerful greenhouse gas effect than carbon dioxide.

Community solar. The Governor proposed increasing incentives for community solar projects, especially in low-income communities.  We applaud this decision, as it has the potential to be a powerful initiative that can address inequities in access to clean energy, and may also be a boost for clean energy jobs.

Energy storage. We praise the decision to significantly invest in energy storage, which is essential to get to 100% renewable energy. This puts New York on the pathway to be an innovation leader in addressing climate change.

Divestment. Cuomo became the first Governor to call on a state’s pension fund to end new investments in entities with significant fossil fuel related commitments. He also pledged to form an advisory committee to figure out what to do about the fund’s current fossil fuel holdings. But creating a committee to study an issue is a well-known delaying tactic. More significantly, Cuomo does not control New York’s $200 billion pension fund; State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is the sole trustee, and thus far opposes divestment.

What we didn’t hear. Missing entirely is any commitment by the Governor to stopping the fossil fuel infrastructure that is still being built all over the state. Ending the expansion of fossil fuels, especially fracked gas and petroleum, must be a foundational step in addressing climate change, and the Governor has ample power to do so.  Right here in New York City, for instance, we’re fighting the Williams Pipeline, which would bring more fracked gas through our harbor. The Governor also failed to commit to a comprehensive legislation package that creates a pathway to a 100% renewable energy future, holds corporate polluters responsible for the damage caused by climate change, and uses polluter fees to invest massively in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Such legislation has already been developed— with  support from a coalition of more than 120 climate-focused organizations under the banner NY Renews—yet the Governor made no mention of it.

In sum, Governor Cuomo has offered some important steps, but in order to address the crisis of global warming on a state by state basis, a far more aggressive time frame and a comprehensive plan that includes transportation, agriculture and construction is required.