How the Bond Act Can Help New York Mitigate Climate Change

As part of the state’s proposed Environmental Bond Act (also known as the Restore Mother Nature Act) that voters will consider in November, New York State would allocate $700 million in spending for climate change mitigation projects. Eligible projects include green and energy-efficient buildings, carbon sequestration and emissions mitigation, climate adaptation and mitigation, urban forestry, and air and water pollution reduction.  

The Bond Act’s climate change mitigation plan builds on the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act with four important goals:

  • Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 85% of 1990 levels by 2050
  • Achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across New York State’s economy
  • Use 70% renewable electricity by 2030
  • Use 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040

Through the Bond Act, New York will continue its partnership with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first mandatory market-based carbon dioxide emissions trading program in the United States. The program is designed so that each of the nine RGGI partner states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) adhere to a cap on the amount of emissions they produce. To go over the limit, the states must trade credits with one another. The cap shrinks over time to achieve emissions reduction. Under this initiative, NYS has reduced its carbon emissions from power plants by more than 45% since 2005.

Over the past decade, New York’s historic efforts to reduce emissions from the power sector have made its electricity grid among the cleanest in the country, leaving transportation as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. The Bond Act will continue programs that are already in place to tackle transportation-related pollution by supporting electric vehicles and associated infrastructure, investing in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, reducing congestion, and expanding and greening public transportation. Not only will the New York State Department of Transportation support the development of new technologies, it will also help citizens and consumers make environmentally friendly transportation choices through the GreenLITES sustainability certification program. ChargeNY is an initiative that aims to create a statewide network of 3,000 public charging stations and put at least 40,000 plug-in vehicles on the road by 2025.

Buildings are another top polluter in New York State. The Bond Act will continue to support BuildSmart NY, which aims to improve energy efficiency in state buildings 20% by 2020 using energy performance measuring systems. The program targets the largest and poorest-performing buildings for energy audits, upgrades, and improved operations and maintenance practices. Renovating and improving energy performance at SUNY, CUNY, and Department of Corrections buildings have been central to the program so far.

The Bond Act will continue to support efforts to reduce and eliminate water pollution. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provides citizens with resources and tips to limit water pollution, and monitors water quality, wastewater treatment, water withdrawal, dam safety, and coastal and flood protection. The Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program aims to control water pollution from nonpoint sources, which come from the secondary movement of natural and human-made pollutants caused by rainfall or snowmelt after the pollutant entered the environment from a point source (for example, a leaking pipe or sprayed pesticide). The Program develops and implements watershed plans, protects and restores waters, and integrates NPS management into other state and local programs.

As part of New York’s overarching efforts to conserve and create green spaces, the Bond Act will support a number of urban and community forestry efforts. Urban forestry is the maintenance of community forests that establish healthy trees for air and water quality benefits, energy savings, environmental health, and enhanced quality of life for urban residents. Importantly, urban forests help combat the heat island effect, a term that describes the hotter air and structure temperatures in an urban setting compared to lower temperatures found in more rural areas. The DEC subsidizes local projects with Urban and Community Forestry Grants and provides guidance for regional communities to create and manage their own urban forests.

New York State recognizes that the fight against climate change must include all communities, and especially those most vulnerable. The Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) aims to strengthen New York’s preparedness for climate change, operating at a state level to ensure that resource-related permitting, regulating, growth, and funding complies with environmental policy. Regionally, the Climate Smart Communities program helps smaller localities act on climate without mandating specific policies, allowing communities to discover and adopt actions that work best for them. Each of these programs under the Environmental Bond Act will work together to support New Yorkers in combating, mitigating, and adapting to climate change.