DiNapoli joins coalition pushing to put environmental goals into law
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has joined forces with more than 40 environmental groups, labor unions and community organizations from across the state in a campaign to give some teeth to the state’s existing environmental goals.
DiNapoli gathered in Buffalo with the members of the coalition, called NY Renews, on Wednesday for what was billed as a “party for the planet,” which featured speeches from a host of activists along with dancing and socializing.
“When you talk about preserving our planet, preserving the economy using clean energy strategies, that is not incompatible with economic growth and creating jobs,” DiNapoli told a crowd of about 120 people at the Tralf Music Hall in downtown Buffalo.
The coalition’s formation comes on the heels of DiNapoli’s trip to Paris for the United Nations’ climate change conference, which culminated in a landmark agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that was signed by 195 countries. While in Paris, the state comptroller addressed a panel on financial risks associated with a warming planet.
The comptroller, who chaired the environmental conservation committee while in the Assembly, argued that the state can strengthen the economy and use more renewable energy at the same time, pointing to his investment of New York state pension funds into renewable energy industries, a strategy on which he has doubled down.
“We all have skin in the game,” DiNapoli said while in Buffalo. “We all have a stake in this and if we’re going to come up with a solution we all need to contribute.”
The NY Renews coalition, which simultaneously held a rally in Harlem headlined by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, aims to pressure the state into making Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy goals legally enforceable and to ensure that energy producers are held to those standards.
Cuomo has set a target of having half of the state’s energy sourced from renewable energy and statewide carbon emissions reduced by 40 percent by 2030. Through an executive order issued last month, the governor has already directed the Public Service Commission to codify the standards.
However, coalition members say they do not want that order delayed or reversed, and will be pushing their agenda with the state Legislature in the upcoming session in an effort to get those goals enacted in law. In addition, they want to ensure that resources are allocated to enforce the rules and monitor progress.
Aaron Bartley, the executive director of PUSH Buffalo, one of the community organizations signed on to the coalition, said that with California leading the way on setting enforceable goals for carbon reduction, New York is next in line.
“What we can do is do what we’re doing today,” Bartley said, “which is the biggest alliance of community, labor and environmental groups coming together state-wide that I’ve seen in the 15 years that I’ve been doing this work in New York."
Maxine Murphy, PUSH Buffalo’s board chair, who was also in Paris for the climate summit last week, said she spent most of her time there with the people on the “front lines” of the climate fight, like farmers and fishermen, who have already seen their livelihoods destroyed by a warming planet.
“We’re destroying ourselves my brothers and sisters,” Murphy said. “We cannot stand for that. Justice must be for everybody.”