A Need for a Pollution Tax
FEB. 5, 2018
To the Editor:
Re: “New Jersey Rejoins Regional Emissions Program It Quit Under Christie” (news article, Jan. 31):
When it comes to cutting carbon emissions, participating in a cap-and-trade program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is important, but it’s only a partial solution. After all, the initiative covers emissions solely from power plants, whereas transportation produces the bulk of New York’s emissions. And so far, the initiative has not cut carbon at the speed science tells us is required to avert dangerous warming.
To do that, we’ll need a more comprehensive and aggressive form of pollution pricing. Your article highlights the laudable effort by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State to tax fossil fuel pollution directly and reinvest the revenue in renewable energy. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York will soon have the same opportunity.
NY Renews, a coalition of 140 environmental, labor and community groups across New York State, has been developing a proposal — likely to be introduced in Albany this year — to invest in job-creating clean energy and resiliency projects for coastal communities, using revenue from a polluter fee.
We need Governor Cuomo to be a real climate leader and embrace this common-sense idea, and lead the country in passing it into law.
LISA TYSON, MASSAPEQUA, N.Y.
The writer is director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a member of NY Renews.
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State should follow New York City's lead taking on big oil
By Ashley Dawson, Commentary
January 28, 2018 | Times Union
“Put a price on carbon emissions so that Big Oil pays for the damage done to our health and environment, and so that we can bankroll a transition to clean energy and fair-labor green jobs.”
The Empire State Building was lit up bright green Jan. 10 to celebrate the precedent-setting announcement by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials: New York City is going to divest its $5 billion pension fund from fossil fuel-related investments. The city also has filed suit against the five biggest oil corporations to recover the billions of dollars in damage climate change has inflicted on the city.
It was a historic moment. The biggest city in the world's most powerful nation came out against the planet's richest, most powerful and most irresponsible industry. But it will take time for New York City's actions to have an impact. Divestment is not expected to happen until at least 2022. Big Oil has legions of lawyers who are experts in using the courts to obstruct justice and forestall reparations.
Although New York City's stand against Big Oil certainly sends a loud and emboldening message to the world, we need to be far more ambitious at the state level. We need state politicians to step up with concrete policy proposals that speed the transition away from fossil fuels. Otherwise, New York City's divestment could be nothing but hollow political posturing.
There certainly doesn't seem to be any meaningful coordination toward divestment on a state level. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month that he is directing the state to begin looking into divesting its own substantial pension funds from fossil fuels. However, the following day, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, sole trustee of the state's $200 billion pension fund, responded that "there are no immediate plans to divest our energy holdings."
Last summer, as President Donald Trump announced his intention to back out of the Paris Agreement, the state Legislature considered the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), which mandated the elimination of fossil fuels from New York's economy within 35 years. The CCPA set fair-labor standards for all green projects and ensured that at least 40 percent of the benefits of transitioning to a zero-carbon economy would be directed to the disadvantaged New York communities that have contributed the least to climate change but will bear the brunt of it. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called the CCPA "the most progressive climate equity policy we've seen."
But the CCPA died after state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, declined to push Senate leaders to bring the bill to a vote. Avella is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), whose members all cosponsored the bill in the Senate in the first place. But the IDC caucuses with Republicans. Cuomo, who refused to make the CCPA a priority in his 2018 executive budget, has often sided with the IDC and has not pushed for them to rejoin the Democrats. Given the war declared on blue states by the Trump administration, the days of such antics by right-wing Democrats should be numbered in a place like New York.
It's time for the citizens of New York to show the rest of the country we can lead the way beyond fossil fuels. Put a price on carbon emissions so that Big Oil pays for the damage done to our health and environment, and so that we can bankroll a transition to clean energy and fair-labor green jobs. These corporations are not and never will be good citizens. They have known the facts about climate change for at least four decades and have done everything to obscure reality and sow public confusion. They have corroded our democracy and wrought havoc on our planet in the name of profits. As de Blasio put it, it's time that these corporations take responsibility for what they've done.
Ashley Dawson is the Barron Visiting Professor at the Princeton Environmental Institute and professor at the City University of New York's Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. He is the author of "Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change."
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