Advocates: State Must Direct $10 Million in Climate Funds to Frontline Communities

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2020

Advocates Call on State to Direct $10 Million in Climate Funds to Frontline Communities

New climate law directs funds to disadvantaged communities

Albany, NY – Today, leading advocates urged the state to affirm its commitment to fighting climate change in a just and equitable manner by directing $10 million from the latest carbon pollution auction to communities on the frontlines of climate change. New York State sold almost 5 million tons of carbon pollution allowances at the March 11th Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) quarterly auction; netting the state over $27.8 million in total proceeds. A key provision of New York’s new climate law requires that at least 35% of all spending on clean energy be directed to disadvantaged communities.

“In 2019, New York State finally embraced a long overdue standard in passing a sweeping climate law. By dedicating at least 35% of clean energy funding to frontline communities, we are finally recognizing - and beginning to correct - the generational exploitation of low-income communities of color in New York that have been forced to endure environmental and public health disparities as well as climate vulnerabilities. This new enlightened and just standard must be applied to RGGI - a system deeply distrusted by the environmental justice movement.  To do otherwise will only feed cynicism of other carbon market mechanisms, such as the latest leap-of-faith proposal called the Transportation and Climate Initiative - a.k.a., RGGI on Wheels,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director at New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

“New York stepped up last year by passing one of the most progressive climate laws in the world. Now the State needs to take two immediate steps to prove their commitment to making the law work for everyone. First, they must announce that $10 million in RGGI auction proceeds will go to disadvantaged communities. And second NYSERDA must live up to its word and amend their regulations this year to conform with the new climate law and its equity provisions,” said Conor Bambrick, Director of Climate Policy at Environmental Advocates of New York.

Background:

Under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon pollution from power plants in participating states – including New York – is capped. For each ton of carbon emitted, power plants must purchase an “allowance.” The supply of those allowances is capped, and allowances are sold at quarterly auctions. The proceeds from those auctions are then distributed to the RGGI states with an understanding that a portion of those funds will be invested in energy efficiency, renewables, and other carbon abatement programs.

The first auction of 2020 netted New York $27.8 million, which would mean $10 million should be directed to frontline communities. Over the life of the program, RGGI has raised more than $1.3 billion for New York.

Last year’s passage of a sweeping climate law has placed New York on a path to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in all sectors. One of the key provisions of the law is a mandate that no less than 35% of the state’s clean energy funds be dedicated to initiatives that benefit disadvantaged communities. RGGI auction proceeds fit into the definition of clean energy funds.

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