New York Jobs Now – Let’s Discuss the Facts Now About New York’s Energy Future

By Paul Zuber | March 11, 2024

New York Jobs Now is launching a new social media campaign, “Energy Red Flag for NY” to raise public awareness of the opportunities, challenges and costs of implementing New York’s ambitious efforts to decarbonize the state’s economy. Working closely with The Business Council of New York State, New York Jobs Now’s goal is to provide data and analysis to help educate the public on the impact of these ambitious climate goals. Our reasoning is very clear and we write this op-ed with an eye towards clearly stating our goals and reasoning behind this campaign

The “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” or CLCPA, approved by the state legislature and then-Governor Andrew Cuomo in July 2019, is one the most consequential single law ever adopted in New York State. The CLCPA’s key mandates are an emission-free electric power grid by 2040 and a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) state economy by 2050, plus a major focus on addressing environmental justice concerns and assuring that the transition results in equitable treatment of impacted New Yorkers. CLCPA implementation will impact virtually every aspect of New York’s economy – the type and cost of energy we use, the way we build and heat our homes and businesses, the cars and trucks we drive, and – for many – the jobs we have.

Therefore, it is crucial that all New Yorkers – residents, workers and business owners alike – pay attention to the major policy initiatives under consideration in Albany, how those decisions will impact everyday life for New Yorkers, and how they can participate in shaping the state’s energy, environmental and economic future.

A Global Problem – We want to be very clear. Global climate change is real and is the result of mankind’s growing use of fossil fuels. As a global problem, climate change needs to be addressed through coordinated global action, with significant commitments from all of the world’s largest economies, including the U.S and Western Europe as well as China, India and other significant greenhouse gas-producing nations.

State Actions, and Limits – Certainly, New York and other states can and should take actions on their own, and New York’s past progress and future commitments are among the most significant among the fifty states. Even before adoption of the CLCPA, New York was already one of the most energy- and carbon-efficient states in the U.S.

New York should continue to invest in energy efficiency, renewable electric power and other greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. These actions can have direct benefits. Many energy efficiency actions are easily implemented and produce immediate cost-savings and short payback periods. Eliminating co-pollutant emissions can also provide localized health benefits, regardless of any climate change impact.

Likewise, states can prepare for expected impacts of climate change, by making resiliency investments in public infrastructure, improving and preserving waterfronts and other vulnerable settings, among other actions.

But we also need a clear understanding of the limitations of state action, and the impact that state-level actions will have on its economy, households and individual businesses.

In fact, state-level actions will have limited impact on global carbon emission levels. New York’s total GHG emissions are about 0.44 percent of global emissions (based on US EPA and international data), so even significant reductions will have little impact on total global emission or the effects of climate change. To put that in perspective, China’s annual increase in GHG emissions has been exceeding New York’s total annual emissions since 2017.

Understanding Costs – State-level actions can also be expensive and are likely to become significantly more so over the next several years. A report issued by the state Public Service Commission in July 2023 showed that Commission-ordered programs, funded mostly through assessments on the state’s business and residential power customers, had spent and committed more than $43 billion since 2016, and the PSC is considering a multi-billion, multi-year extension of those programs. In 2022, New York voters approved a $4.2 billion environmental bond act, a significant portion of which is dedicated to climate change response. More recently, NYSERDA issued projections showing that the pending GHG “cap and invest” regulatory program could cost up to an additional $12 billion annually by 2027.

Even so, there is no comprehensive, readily accessible summary of the total amount of funds being spent on climate change initiatives, either directly by New York State or indirectly through state directed actions. It is essential that the state produce an up-to-date climate action “dashboard,” showing program costs and impact on the state’s GHG emissions and renewable goals, as well as how these costs will impact households and businesses.

Economic and Emissions Leakage is Real – There is real concern that overly restrictive, and overly costly, emission reduction strategies will drive economic activity out of New York. We know this is a real threat. Due to a variety of factors within and outside of the state’s control, New York State lost nearly 280,000 manufacturing jobs from 2001 to 2022, or 40 percent of its total (double the national decline). Many of this industrial activity went to other U.S. and foreign jurisdictions that are less carbon efficient than New York, meaning this was both an economic loss to the state, and a negative impact on global emissions. The state needs to assure that its transition to a low-carbon economy avoids the significant loss of business, investments and jobs, especially if production lost to New York merely shifts elsewhere with no global emission reduction.

Path Forward – The CLCPA requires New York, by 2030, to reduce GHG emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels. Importantly, this mandate will be the driving force behind the state’s pending “cap and invest” rule, which will limit total annual emissions by industry, fuel providers and others. According to state data, they are projecting 2025 emissions at 348 million metric tons (mmt), meaning that in the following five years, the state needs to reduce GHG emission by more than 100 mmt – or more than all emissions from the transportation sector today. While the state has implemented major initiatives to reduce emissions – off-shore wind, on-shore solar, new power transmission lines, EV sales mandate, restrictions on building emissions – estimates are that those measures will not be nearly enough. The

state needs to provide the public with a clear roadmap to achieving this significant 2030 target, including additional emission reduction mandates, their costs, and how they will be paid for. Assuring an affordable path to achieving “40 by 30” is crucial, as businesses will be evaluating both the future cost and availability of emission allowances under “cap and invest” as they consider future in-state investments.

This Effects Us All – Finally, there is a common misconception that the response to climate change is all about factories and powerplants. In fact, about 60 percent of GHG emission in New York are related to buildings and transportation, including our homes, cars and SUVs. Emissions from residential fuel consumption is nearly fifty percent more than all in-state emissions from powerplants, and nearly fifteen times that from industrial fuel use. State regulatory actions will impose new costs on households as well as on the industrial, commercial and utility sectors. We are already seeing public concerns about the impact of climate laws on the cost of residential upgrades, energy costs, product availability, and others.

Responding to climate change, and implementing New York’s CLCPA, can provide immediate and long-term benefits for New Yorkers, but will also be complex, expensive and disruptive. The implementation decisions we make will determine how well we balance costs and benefits. New Yorkers should be demanding more complete, more accessible information on major state climate change programs – how much they cost, how they are being paid for, what they are achieving, and how New Yorkers are benefiting.

Our new media campaign is an effort to raise public awareness of the opportunities and challenges posed by New York’s response to climate change, and the major policy decisions being made in Albany. Making the right choices is critical to the state’s economic future.

Paul Zuber serves as the Executive Vice President of The Business Council of New York State Inc.


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