Public invited to comment on New York climate plan

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The draft implementation plan specifies areas where the state can reduce carbon emissions. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)

VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — One of the 10 public hearings over the draft implementation plan for New York’s climate change goals will be held at Binghamton University Tuesday. The state’s Climate Action Council authored the draft in 2021. The Council is now soliciting public feedback before a final implementation plan can be adopted later this year.

WSKG’s Vaughn Golden discussed the plan and upcoming hearing with a member of the Climate Action Council, Cornell University Professor Robert Howarth.

Vaughn Golden: “This is WSKG News. I’m Vaughn Golden. On Tuesday, the state is holding a public hearing over the state’s overarching plan to combat climate change called the Draft Scoping Plan. The plan was put together by the state’s Climate Action Council. I’m joined by one of its members, Cornell University professor, Dr. Robert Howarth to discuss a little bit about the plan and about these hearings.* Thanks for coming on, professor.

Robert Howarth: It’s great to be here with you, Vaughn. Thank you.

Golden: Cool. So to start off, could you give us a quick summary of what the draft scoping plan is for someone who might just be hearing about this?

Howarth: Sure. I mean, it’s, the Climate Action Council was set up as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019. And that act, establishes progressive climate goals for our state and puts us in a leadership of being one of the most aggressive governments in the world to try and reach climate targets. We’re one of the few entities which would have climate targets that are comparable to what’s demanded by the COP 21 and COP 26, United Nations climate goal. So, you know, all all states, all nations will be doing this. But New York is one of the few that’s really out there trying. The act itself calls for 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all sources by eight years from now and basically carbon neutrality by 2050, while moving also progressively towards getting rid of fossil fuels in our electricity production, moving entirely to renewable electricity, and perhaps some some nuclear. The Climate Action Council is the group charged with developing the specifics of how we get there. And the law mandated that we produce a Draft Implementation Plan, Scoping Plan by last December, which we did. We unanimously passed the plan on December 20. And we have to have a final plan by the end of this year. So we’re having a series of 10 hearings, eight around the state, including the one in Binghamton, and two virtual hearings, where we’re seeking input from the public as to what they like and did not like in our our draft plan, what they’d like to see us pay more attention to or explain better.

Golden: And what kind of specific input are you looking for? Meaning is there one topic or aspect to this huge 800-plus page plan that public comments may be particularly impactful for?

Howarth: Well, you know, the council as a whole is looking for comments across the entire plan, whatever people find most interesting. It is a fairly long and detailed plan. But I do urge interested people to take a close look at it. You know, personally, I think what we’re doing to try and meet the goals of the 40 percent reduction by eight years from now are the most critical. That’s the challenge. That is what we have to do if we’re serious about climate change, but it’s also a challenge. We’ve laid out a couple of ways to get there. They all call for beneficial electrification of transportation. So electric vehicles, electric cars, electric school buses moving towards more electric trucks, they also call for beneficial electrification of heating. So using high efficiency heat pumps in one’s homes and our commercial businesses, as opposed to fossil fuel. And, you know, I’m convinced that’s the way to go. Let’s say the council passed this unanimously, but we want to make sure that the public buys into this plan as well.

Golden: All right, we’ll have to leave it there. I’ve been speaking with member of the state’s Climate Action Council and Cornell University Professor, Dr. Robert Howarth. Thanks for coming on.

Howarth: Thank you. Take care.

Golden: And a reminder public comment will be accepted at this hearing tomorrow at Binghamton University, as well as in several virtual hearings over the next few weeks.

I’m Vaughn Golden, this is WSKG News.”

*Cornell University is a WSKG Underwriter