ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Environmental advocates say money in the state budget meant for environmental initiatives needs to stay intact. Environmental Advocates New York is urging the state not to take the nearly $23 million intended for climate change and environmental initiatives and spend it on other programs.
In 2019, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was passed. It aims to transition the state to renewable energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions to 85% by 2050.
Robert Hayes, director of clean water for Environmental Advocates New York, said that more investment in those initiatives is needed going forward.
“We will need the funding to make sure that that transition actually happens and that it is done in an equitable way that protects and benefits low-income communities and communities of color,” Hayes said.
It’s not just about the environment, said Hayes, but about public health and racial equity.
“Air quality is worse in urban areas in communities with greater proportions of Black and brown residents,” he said. “Not surprisingly, these are also the places where we see the greatest rates of COVID-19 infection.”
The pandemic has shown that people with underlying conditions, like asthma, are at higher risk of complications from infection.
“Some of those pre-existing illnesses may be linked to the air pollution that is being caused each and every day by fossil fuel combustion,” he said.
Environmental Advocates New York said that over the past five years, about $200 million proposed for climate change and environmental initiatives in the state budget have instead been reallocated to fund other state programs.