Photo by Erik Karits on Unsplash
Deep Dive

A Feeling of Optimism for 2023

The Climate Reality Team
February 1, 2023

Though the new session of the House of Representatives got off to a chaotic start, New York State residents should feel optimistic about climate—especially if Governor Hochul and the State Legislature continue their efforts to meet the goals of the CLCPA, which is one of the most ambitious climate laws in the nation.

With the state making strides, the City of Ithaca is better positioned to accomplish the goals of the Ithaca Green New Deal (IGND).

The largest environmental bond act in New York State history passed in November of 2022 with an overwhelming 60% of the public in favor. The bond will fund up to $4.2 billion for environmental improvement projects, including increased flood resiliency, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, converting to electric school buses and creating more green and open spaces.

In 2023, NYS finalized the Scoping Plan to lead us to meet the goals of the NYS Climate Act (CLCPA). The rest of the country is watching New York, and our progress will heavily influence whether other states will attempt any ambitious action toward reducing GHG levels. Ithaca has also put itself on the radar with the IGND. Other cities are watching us. If the IGND succeeds, Ithaca will inspire other cities to follow its path.

Much of what happens in Ithaca will depend on New York State achieving its climate goals. For Electrify Ithaca to succeed, the electric grid needs to supply the city with renewable electricity to electrify all buildings in the city. In the transportation sector,  we will need to encourage more people to transition to EVs. We need a more widespread charging network so people will feel secure enough to get rid of their gasoline-powered vehicles. And electric vehicle prices have been out-of-range for many residents, but Federal incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have made EVs more accessible.

Will New York State do its part to lead us out of the climate crisis? In Governor Kathy Hochul’s State of the State address on January 10, we see reason to feel some optimism that, at long last, we have a leader serious enough to take action. We hope that this commitment is also reflected in the Governor’s proposed NYS budget for the year.

The Governor’s office issued a book to cover all of her proposals. However, the big priorities on top of the list were delivered in the presentation. Here are some significant items from the transcript of the speech:

In fact, buildings are the largest source of emissions in our state… as well as pollution that aggravates asthma and endangers our children. So today, I'm proposing an ambitious series of policies to insulate our most vulnerable households from exorbitant energy bills, and to clear the path forward for a more sustainable future

"The EmPower Plus" program… will reach tens of thousands of households within a year. Homes that electrify will be eligible for a first-in-the-nation Energy Affordability Guarantee… they will never spend more than 6 percent of their income on electricity… at least $165 million in relief to more than 800,000 utility customers…

The key to long-term sustainability—for our wallets and our planet—is weaning ourselves from fossil fuels…I'm proposing a plan to end the sale of any new fossil-fuel-powered heating equipment by 2030… all new construction to be zero-emission, starting in 2025 for small buildings and 2028 for large buildings.

We are taking these actions because climate change remains the greatest threat to our planet, and to our children and grandchildren... in a way that prioritizes affordability, protects those who are already struggling to get by, and corrects the environmental injustices of the past

Big emitters will have to purchase permits…the dirtier the fuel - the bigger the price tag… Accelerate the clean energy transition and include a universal Climate Action rebate that will provide $1 billion in revenues that we'll allocate to help cover utility bills, transportation costs, and decarbonization efforts…

As we help families with energy costs and transitioning to the future, we know that future belongs to our children.

In concluding her 2023 State of the State Address, she gave us some hope that things might be done:

As other states continue to slide backwards when it comes to basic and fundamental rights, we will protect and enshrine those rights here in New York, and we will continue to be nation-leading in every way when it comes to combating climate change.

The task ahead of us is daunting, and the stakes could not be higher. But I am fortunate to live in the home once occupied by one our state’s greatest leaders and thinkers. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “You who are going to build a new world must go forward with courage.”

We will build a new world, and we will be courageous. We will do the hard things — the necessary things to lift up and support New Yorkers and clear a path for them to realize the New York Dream. That is my promise to the people of New York.

Governor Hochul is taking the future for New Yorkers seriously and is going forward with courage by championing and governing for change. Achievement of the state goals, combined with the Federal incentives provided by the IRA, will create  a framework that will support  the accomplishment of the IGND. One more element is needed: The City of Ithaca leadership, teamed with the community, must also move forward with courage to make the IGND a reality.