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CCLers help pass ambitious climate legislation in New York state

Gov Cuomo climate bill New York

Governor Cuomo signed the bill on July 18, 2019 and tweeted this photo.

By Jamie DeMarco

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the most ambitious climate legislation in the country. The bill, called the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, requires the state to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

CCL New York played a critical role in getting the bill passed. So critical in fact that Governor Cuomo’s office invited the lead CCL members in the state to attend the bill signing. 

Leading up to passage of the bill, CCL New York organized regularly recurring lobby days in Albany, successfully lobbying every state senator about the bill. These volunteers, led by Lynn Meyer and Philip Kahn, have held some 150 meetings over the last two years. CCL New York is also a member of New York Renews, the lead coalition behind the passage of this groundbreaking law. For years, we did the hard work of advocating on behalf of this bill. 

Getting across the finish line

Our greatest contribution came right at the end of the campaign. As the legislative session was coming to a close, Cuomo and the New York Renews coalition could not agree on final bill language, and neither was willing to budge. The bill seemed doomed to die from unrelenting gridlock. 

CCL stepped in and played a critical mediation role, offering compromise language and meeting with both the governor and civil society groups to get their buy-in. Three CCL Albany volunteers in particular, Bryan Swift, Peter Savio and Michael O’Hara, worked tirelessly to foster compromise. These efforts culminated in a letter to Cuomo offering compromise legislation, signed by prominent climate advocacy groups in the state. The policy was later endorsed by the editorial board of the New York Times, and ultimately helped break the gridlock to break and pass the bill. 

Strong results, next steps

The legislation mandates that the electricity sector be free from fossil fuel energy by 2040, and uses proven, enforceable policy mechanisms to do it. For greenhouse gas reductions outside of the electricity sector, the policy is much less specific. It creates governing boards which will create and enact policies to meet the ambitious reduction goals. The law does not include a price on carbon, but everyone, including the New York Renews Coalition, agrees that the next goal is to enact a price on carbon to help enact these new pollution reduction targets. 

On July 18th, Governor Cuomo held a bill-signing ceremony in NYC with state senators and environmental leaders in attendance, including Lynn, Philip, and Michael, representing CCL New York. With the help of the New York Renews Coalition, legislative champions, and advocates throughout the state, we have proved yet again that citizen lobbying and finding common ground can lead to tremendous legislative breakthroughs.

Jamie DeMarco is the State-Level Carbon Pricing Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.