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New York just passed a hugely ambitious climate law

New York just passed a hugely ambitious climate law
[Photo: Nina Lynch/iStock]

While the Trump administration rolls back a rule designed to cut pollution from coal plants—one of dozens of environmental rules it has targeted—the state legislature in New York just passed one of the most ambitious climate laws in the world.

By 2030, the state will have to get 70% of its electricity from renewable sources. By 2050, it will be legally required to cut emissions by 85%. The remaining 15% will be offset, potentially through methods like capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere. (Activists had pushed for cutting emissions 100%.) That will mean reaching “net zero” emissions by the middle of the century, or taking in as much carbon dioxide as the state emits, a goal in line with the Paris climate agreement.

The U.K. government recently announced that it will also commit to net zero emissions by 2050. But New York is the largest economy to take the next step of setting a legally binding commitment to reach the goal. The new law will also direct more than a third of the benefits of clean energy and energy efficiency investments to go to vulnerable communities.

Reaching the target will require massive changes. The state currently gets around 60% of its electricity from nonpolluting sources now—mostly hydroelectric and nuclear power. But it will also have to transform transportation, shifting away from millions of fossil-fuel-powered cars and trucks, and tackle heating, shifting from fuel oil and gas to sources like geothermal energy. Buildings will have to be retrofitted, something that’s already underway in New York City thanks to another new law. Other states are likely to follow with similarly ambitious laws; Oregon is expected to pass a major cap and trade bill by the end of June.

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