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Another Voice: New York State needs commitment to renewable energy

By Geovaira Hernandez

On Sept. 8, thousands of people worldwide united for a day of action around climate and economic justice. Rise Up for Climate, Jobs and Justice events, like the one we helped organize in Buffalo at Canalside – which drew several hundred residents – arrived ahead of the Global Action Climate Summit this week in San Francisco.

The summit brings together elected officials, labor unions, thought leaders and nongovernmental organizations to discuss the Paris climate goals, and how to accelerate efforts to reduce global emissions.

Not surprisingly, considering its intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement and its assault on basic environmental protections, the Trump administration will not participate in the summit.

With hopes of federal action on climate now dashed, groups like PUSH Buffalo, the Communications Workers of America and the Sierra Club are working in coalition with others across regions and states to pressure elected officials to commit to a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels toward an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

In Washington State this fall, residents will vote on Initiative 1631 which, if passed, would generate $1 billion of revenue annually through a corporate polluter fee. The revenue would be used to fund climate solutions that benefit the most environmentally overburdened communities.

Earlier this week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that sets California on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. This is a huge development, and the first law of its kind enacted by a state legislature in the U.S. Importantly, progress in each of these areas wouldn’t have happened without sustained grassroots leadership from so-called frontline communities.

California’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy sets a compass point for the rest of us to follow. Now, we’re demanding that elected leaders in New York deliver on a progressive climate justice agenda that includes not only a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy but prioritizes clean energy investments in frontline communities and creates good paying, green jobs.

As members of the statewide New York Renews coalition, we’re calling specifically for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) in 2019 and to support a corporate polluter penalty and reinvestment policy like the one being advanced in Washington State. Together these moves would position New York as a true global climate leader accountable to a progressive populism that is now rising all around us.

Geovaira Hernandez, climate justice organizer at PUSH Buffalo, co-authored this with Lynda Schneekloth, of Sierra Club Niagara Chapter, and Debora M. Hayes, area director, Communications Workers of America.

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