Stirpe: Our planet’s future depends on our actions now

Assemblyman Al Stirpe

You don’t have to look very far to see the impact of climate change and its relation to public policy. Just look at the flooding throughout the Great Lakes, including our own Lake Ontario, where shoreside communities have suffered so much flooding that the governor declared a state of emergency.[1] Or ask the boaters on Seneca Lake, who for some weeks in recent seasons could not fit under bridges because of higher water levels than in past years.[2] The heavy rainfall we’ve seen this summer and over the past few years has caused water levels to rise everywhere, posing a serious threat to our region. This flooding can cause shoreline erosion and property damage, putting the 30 million people who live within the Great Lakes basin at risk.[3]

We can argue about local decisions that may be impacting water levels, but there is no doubt that climate change is a major contributor. That’s why it’s imperative that we come together and take action at every level.  This year, I fought for legislation that will reduce our carbon footprint and put us on a path toward a more sustainable future. While there’s still much to do, the major steps we took during the last legislative session will go a long way toward protecting Central New York families and hopefully inspire more conservation efforts nationwide.

To put New York State at the forefront in the fight against climate change, I helped pass the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Ch. 106 of 2019). The law sets several goals to protect our planet’s future, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050, requiring that 70% of electricity be produced by renewable energy systems by 2030 and requiring 100% of the state’s electricity to be produced without emissions by 2040. It also invests in clean energy projects and promotes environmental justice.

Are these goals lofty? Absolutely. But we will need bold solutions to overcome this challenge. Some also complain that we are just one state, and that the problem is bigger than us. That is true. Climate change is a global challenge, but we must do our part. We have a responsibility to show the rest of the country and the world that the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act are possible. The consequences of avoiding these actions over unwarranted economic fears are too grim to imagine.

This groundbreaking law capped off our many environmental victories this past year, including a statewide ban on most single-use plastic bags to clean up our neighborhoods and waterways (Ch. 58 of 2019). And to protect our marine life and keep New York’s waters clean, we banned offshore oil and gas drilling in our state’s coastal waters (Ch. 29 of 2019). These laws show that New York State is not backing away from its commitment to safeguarding our natural resources and protecting public health.

Additionally, I helped pass measures to combat the dangers that harmful chemicals pose to our families and the environment. I passed legislation that ensures mercury-added lightbulbs don’t contain excessive amounts of mercury (A.2501-A) and also co-sponsored a measure establishing a post-consumer paint collection program so we can easily dispose of unwanted paint in an environmentally friendly manner (A.6373). These measures passed both the Assembly and Senate, and I’m hopeful that the governor will sign them into law soon.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore the effects of climate change – they’re happening right now all around us and are only going to get worse if we don’t act. And although we’ve made great strides, there’s still so much more that needs to be done to protect our planet now and for future generations. I’ll continue working to ensure our environment is a clean and healthy place for Central New Yorkers to call home.

As always, my door is open. If you have questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at 315-452-1115 or StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

[1] scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-sends-great-lakes-water-levels-seesawing

[2] fltimes.com/news/concerns-raised-over-water-level-of-seneca-lake/article_518a9cc1-f5ab-50d0-bf73-da0dbdc1816c.html

[3] scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-sends-great-lakes-water-levels-seesawing

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