In Light of UN Dire Climate Warning, Enviros Urge NYS Budget Cmte to Embrace Comprehensive Senate Climate Plan

New IPCC report shows planet warming beyond critical threshold within decade – enviros warn this will cost taxpayers billions without action

ALBANY, NY (03/21/2023) (readMedia)-- Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report finding that global average temperatures will likely rise 1.5 Degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels within the next decade - a critical threshold for climate change. In order to prepare for the realities of a warming planet, the world needs to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels while ensuring the bill for resilience infrastructure and damage clean-up doesn't fall only on taxpayers.

Here In New York, the state Senate's one-house budget offers a comprehensive response to the extreme threat posed by climate change: the Climate and Community Protection Fund (S5360 Harckham) which includes the Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129 Krueger/A3351 Dinowitz). Environmental advocates are calling on the NYS budget committee to embrace the Senate's plan.

"As the climate crisis becomes more and more dire, it's imperative that New York take bold and immediate action to protect communities statewide from rising heat and extreme weather, high energy bills, pollution, and health-impacting emissions. The Senate's budget plan includes key provisions that-if adopted by both the Assembly and Governor-would start directing funds and support to households from Long Island to Brooklyn, Albany to Buffalo as early as this year. The Senate's plan stands to raise billions in climate dollars by making polluting industries pay for the harm they've caused, then directing funding toward building out clean-energy infrastructure, job training, community-based climate plans, and lowering energy costs," said Stephan Edel, NY Renews Coalition Coordinator.

"Climate change is here, and the IPCC's new report proves it's only getting worse, and fast. As temperatures rise and storms become more and more frequent and severe, it's everyday New Yorkers who will pay for climate resilient infrastructure and damage clean-up - even though Big Oil is most at fault. The Senate's budget package takes this unfortunate reality into account by including the Climate Change Superfund Act. Now, the budget committee must take the threat of climate change as seriously as the Senate by standing with taxpayers - not record-profit-making multinational Big Oil companies - and making polluters pay in the final budget," said Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG.


The Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129 Krueger/A3351 Dinowitz) assesses the largest greenhouse gas emitters to pay $3 billion annually for the next 25 years to offset the expected tens of billions of dollars in expected climate damages that will have to be paid by state taxpayers and ratepayers. It's modeled on the existing toxics superfund law (which deals with land and drinking water contamination) that makes polluters financially responsible for the environmental damages that they have caused. These costs wouldn't fall back on consumers, according to an analysis from the think tank Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law.

2022 was a record profit year for big oil, with the top companies' combined profits reaching an astounding $376 billion. Those record profits allowed them to deliver unprecedented returns to shareholders while doing little to address the climate crisis they knew was coming, but did all they could to undermine climate action. Starting in the 1970s, scientists working for Exxon made "remarkably accurate projections of just how much burning fossil fuels would warm the planet." Yet for years, "the oil giant publicly cast doubt on climate science, and cautioned against any drastic move away from burning fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change."

Big Oil is at fault for climate change, and it can certainly afford the costs - which are uniquely necessary - and expensive - in New York. A new report from Rebuild by Design "Atlas of Disaster: New York State'' identifies the impacts of recent climate disasters across New York State at the county level, for the years 2011-2021. The data shows that every single county in New York has experienced a federal climate disaster between 2011-2021, with 16 having five or more disasters during that time. In that decade, more than 100 New Yorkers died as a result of climate-driven disasters. In 2022 that number grew exponentially when Winter Storm Elliot in Buffalo killed 39 people.

In a separate report, Rebuild by Design estimated that the climate costs to New York could be $55 billion by the end of this decade. Furthermore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that it would cost $52 billion to protect NY Harbor alone. And while storms get worse, sea levels are rising and groundwater poses a higher risk of flooding - and we don't even know how much yet. Clearly, New York is facing staggering – and growing – climate costs.

The Climate Change Superfund Act isn't just necessary – it's popular. According to a poll from Data for Progress, 89% of New Yorkers support fossil fuel companies covering at least some of the cost for climate damages. 200+ groups including key labor unions such as DC37 sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie urging them to include the bill in the one house budgets. In their letter, the groups write that the fossil fuel industry should be subject to the state's climate costs since their "decisions led to global warming; justice requires that they-not New York's other taxpayers-be financially responsible for the tragically enormous climate crisis impacts that they created."

Last year, a federal proposal to make polluters pay championed by U.S. Reps Bowman and Nadler (and U.S. Senator Van Hollen, MD) received support from over 40 members of the House of Representatives. But the proposal didn't make it through Congress, and NYS now has the opportunity to step in where the federal government has failed and be the first legislative body to enact such legislation. Three other states - Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont - are also considering similar legislation to make climate polluters pay.