24 June, 2020 New York Climate Action Council Meeting

On July 18, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act). It is among the most ambitious climate laws in the world and requires New York to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. The law creates a Climate Action Council charged with developing a scoping plan of recommendations to meet these targets.  This post summarizes the second meeting of the Council.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  Given the cost impacts for other jurisdictions that have implemented renewable energy resources to meet targets at much less stringent levels I am convinced that the costs in New York will be enormous and my analyses have supported that concern.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

According to the Climate Action Council website: “The New York State Climate Action Council (Council) is a 22-member committee that will prepare a Scoping Plan to achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda”.  The co-chairs and ten of the members are representatives of state agencies and authorities.  The remaining ten members were chosen by politicians. Advisory panels and the Just Transition Working Group will help develop the scoping plan.  As of this meeting only the working group has been set up.  No word on the six initial panels: transportation; energy efficiency and housing; agriculture and forestry; power generation; energy intensive and trade-exposed industries; and land-use and local government.

June 24, 2020 Climate Action Council Meeting

The meetings and materials web page for the Council lists the meeting materials, a link to a meeting video, and additional resources. This meeting was originally scheduled in April but due to the pandemic was postponed.  Moreover, it has had significant impacts to programs at the agencies because staff have been diverted away from Council activities to assist in the emergency response.  As a result, not much has happened to this effort for several months.

There is a video link but I watched the meeting webinar.  Not listed in the posted agenda was the item co-chair remarks that was long and added nothing to the substance of the meeting.    Skip the first 45 to 50 minutes to get too the presentation by E3 and you will miss nothing  The agenda consisted of the following topics:

      • Consideration of Minutes
      • Presentation by Consultants: Emissions Reduction Pathways Analysis, Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3)
      • Discussion of Working Groups and Scopes of Work for Advisory Panels
      • Updates on NYS Implementation from DEC: Greenhouse Gas Emission Limits, Value of Carbon Reduction
      • Next Steps

One of the points of emphasis during the meeting was the allegation that there are disparate impacts of the pandemic and of climate change to Environmental Justice (EJ) communities. The Climate Act (§ 75-0117 Investment of funds) has specific requirements on funding for EJ communities:

State agencies, authorities and entities, in consultation with the environmental justice working group and the climate action council, shall, to the extent practicable, invest or direct available and relevant programmatic resources in a manner designed to achieve a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive forty percent of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments in the areas of housing, workforce development, pollution reduction, low income energy assistance, energy, transportation and economic development, provided however, that disadvantaged communities shall receive no less than thirty-five percent of the overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments and provided further that this section shall not alter funds already contracted or committed as of the effective date of this section.

Commissioner Seggos explained the direction of 40% of overall benefits to EJ communities is only a goal and the Council should aim for a higher value.  There also is a requirement for ambient air monitoring in EJ communities.  Presumably DEC’s air quality monitoring programs in four EJ communities counts towards that requirement.

The NYSERDA consultant, E3, presented results of their emissions reductions pathway analyses by sector. This is the first tangible product that describes what will be required to meet the Climate Act. The summary notes that “there is no single pathway to a decarbonized economy, all scenarios that achieve carbon neutrality share significant progress in the following four pillars:

      • Energy efficiency, conservation and end use electrification
      • Switching to low carbon fuels
      • Decarbonizing the electricity supply
      • Negative emissions measures and carbon capture technologies”.

The presentation noted that results are intended to inform the Council discussion not make specific recommendations.  I intend to devote a post to this report in the future.

The “Just Transition” workgroup candidates have been identified and they will likely meet in a month or so.  No information was provided on filling the other workgroups or panels.

There has been progress on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) implementation.  DEC is working on two rulemakings:

      • The Climate Act requires them to establishing emissions limits for 2030 and for 2050 and because the targets are based on 1990 emissions, they have to finalize that as well. There will be a proposal released for public comment in August (end of comments in October).  Emissions limits will be finalized by January 1, 2021.
      • DEC also has to identify the value of carbon as an aid for agency decision making (not for regulatory use).  DEC is considering two options: environmental damages and marginal cost of abatement.  DEC will evaluate a range of discount rates including zero, the social cost of carbon used in other jurisdictions and will provide values for non-CO2 GHG.   A stakeholder conference will be held in July; public comment on the agency guidance document will occur from August – September with a final release in January, 2021

The Climate Act includes a definition of “Carbon dioxide equivalent” or as it is more commonly known global warming potential, that complicates these rule-makings.  The law specifies that that carbon dioxide equivalent “means the amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as a given mass of another greenhouse gas over an integrated twenty-year time frame after emission”.  The Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change section on Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forc­ing uses a 100-year time frame but admits that there is no scientific basis to choose that over other time frames.  The problem is that New York’s requirement for a 20-year time frame means that you cannot compare New York’s emission inventories and costs of carbon to everyone else, including earlier New York work who uses the 100-year time frame.  Consequently, this means more work for DEC to generate numbers consistent with the Climate Act.

Conclusion

There is a long way to go with the Climate Action Council and its charge to develop a scoping plan.  Although the de-carbonization pathways presentation claimed that their initial pathways were feasible, they also admitted that the scale of the transformation was unprecedented.  I will be posting on the pathways and DEC rulemakings in future articles.

One final note.  The membership of the Climate Action Council and the likely makeup of all the working groups and advisory panels is over-whelming convinced not only that there is an existential climate threat but that implementation of the Climate Act is only a matter of political will.  Even the title scoping plan as opposed to feasibility plan suggests there is no question this can be done. In that light, it is not clear if any evidence contrary to their pre-conceived notions could engender change.  However, as Robert Louis Stevenson said: “Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences”.

 

Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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