LOWVILLE — Acknowledging that building countless wind turbines, field-after-field of solar arrays and engineering radical energy storage and delivery systems will not alone bring New York state to “full decarbonization” by 2050, the Draft Scoping Plan is a detailed analysis of potential paths to reach the goal.
Sector by sector, impact by impact, the plan created by the state Climate Action Council alternates between rationale for the program and the coordinated effort of all state agencies, local governments, businesses of all sizes and state residents will need to take across multiple sectors including transportation, buildings and construction, electricity and agriculture, among others, to meet the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act — or the Climate Act — goals as signed into law in 2019.
The goals include 40% reduction from 1990 levels in greenhouse gases emitted statewide by 2030 and an 85% reduction by 2050 along with “net zero emissions,” or removing as much carbon from the atmosphere as is being produced across all sectors statewide. The Department of Environmental Conservation must make new regulations to make those goals happen by 2023.
The first nine public hearings on the draft plan throughout the state have been completed, and this week the last three will be held — in person today and Thursday in Tupper Lake and Peekskill, respectively, and virtually on Wednesday at 4 p.m. — although public comments can still be sent via email or postal mail until June.
The 340-page plan looks at four potential approaches to goal achievement and what will need to be done in each sector along with the impacts of each approach on jobs, health, the economy and greenhouse gas reductions.
The first path recommended by advisory panels would not on its own lead to achieving the goals so three other models were created “to meet or exceed” the mid-century goal limits with the first plan as the foundation. The council is specifically seeking public comment on the three other options in the draft plan.
The next scenario would add “strategic use of low-carbon fuels” made from waste from plant or animal products — called biogenic waste — diverted from landfills like food waste and natural materials leftover in farming and forest management along with “a critical role for green hydrogen for difficult-to-electrify applications” to the original path.
“Green hydrogen is hydrogen generated entirely by renewable energy,” the document stated. Likewise, “renewable diesel” would be used to replace diesel in trucking until the transition to all electric vehicles by 2050.
An “accelerated transition away from combustion” is the third scenario proposed that calls for “accelerated electrification of buildings and transportation” to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and “a very limited role for bioenergy and hydrogen combustion.”
Going “beyond 85% reduction” in the fourth scenario also involves getting electrification in place more quickly and only “targeted use of low-carbon fuels” with the addition of decreasing the number of “vehicle miles travelled” through increased public transportation and using innovative ways to reduce methane to make reductions that surpass the 2050 goals.
“The only current method for removing emissions from the atmosphere is through the process of natural carbon sequestration, which is a service provided by our forests, croplands, and wetlands. In 2019, these lands removed an amount of CO2 equal to 8% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the document said.
The last scenario is the only one that will not also require steps to absorb carbon from the atmosphere but it does call for the highest reduction in emissions from agriculture and landfills, which will mean “alternative manure management and animal feeding practices” to reduce methane emissions and divert organic waste from landfills.
“The largest three remaining sources of emissions predicted for 2050 across scenarios are landfills, aviation and animal feeding,” the document stated.
Strategies that will be needed for the state to be carbon neutral in the next 28 years will also include reducing the use of emissions from the refrigerants currently used in heat pumps, support for the purchase of technology from electric vehicles to heating systems by individuals and businesses and using forests and farmlands for carbon sequestration.
“Climate justice,” ensuring that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants in communities that have been impacted the worst by climate change but have not been the biggest producers of the pollutants are able to benefit from things like distributed renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and weatherization investments, zero- and low-emission transportation options among others, is also emphasized.
Part of the plan is also “to support a fair and equitable movement from fossil fuel-based economics toward the achievement of the carbon neutral future envisioned by the Climate Act” while considering job creation and work force development on local, regional and statewide levels.
It calls for extensive opportunities for training and education as job skill needs shift from fossil fuel-related technology to renewable energy and carbon mitigation technology ultimately creating workforce “pipelines” from early schooling to technical schools or college and post graduate degrees and hands-on training in the workforce.
In general, the plan encourages “pathways into good-paying jobs” that turn into “long-term careers.”
“Enacting fair pay provisions will be particularly important in ensuring that new, clean energy jobs pay as well as former or existing jobs,” the draft plan states.
Through 2050, “overall employment” in the state is predicted to increase by about 268,000 jobs, or 54%.
Support for businesses including financial, training and “procurement opportunities” is also part of the transition away from greenhouse gases.
“Manufacturing of clean energy components and equipment must be promoted locally to stimulate the economy and increase job growth,” according to the draft plan, specifically for the creation of “stable, well-paid jobs as opposed to takeover by out-of-state workers in the ‘gig’ economy.”
The construction and manufacturing industries are anticipated to see the most growth and the increases will be “found in every corner of the state, with each of New York’s five regions seeing an increase of between 10,000 and 48,000 net new jobs.”
Other actions included in the plan involve creating financial incentives for companies to transition to clean energy technology to prevent them from moving their operations out of the state and ensuring offsets for carbon “leakage” from neighboring states that produce more greenhouse gases.
The draft plan emphasizes the importance of continued research and development in new technology and will be updated at least every five years to reflect changes in policies and greenhouse gas emissions over time.
For the complete Draft Scoping Plan, go to https://climate.ny.gov/Our-Climate-Act/Draft-Scoping-Plan.
For details about the public hearings this week or how to submit comments on the plan, go to https://climate.ny.gov/CAC-Meetings-and-Materials or send a letter to Draft Scoping Plan Comments, NYSERDA, 17 Columbia Circle, Albany, NY 12203-6399.