24 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
New York’s climate change move
By Nabil Nasr
The average water level along New York
state’s coastline has risen by a foot since
1900. The average annual temperature
has gone up, too, resulting in less snow
cover in the winter and more heat waves
in the summer. State legislators cite these
changes and others as signs of human-
caused climate change in the Climate
Leadership and Community Protection
Act (CLCPA) they passed in June.
Informally called the New York
Green Deal, the act builds on targets
for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
agreed to by most of the interna-
tional community in Paris in 2015.
The Paris Agreement set out to hold
any global temperature increase due
to anthropogenic sources to 1.5 de-
grees Celsius. As part of this world-
wide effort, New Yorks CLCPA
sets a target of net-zero carbon by
2050, which includes a 2030 in-
terim target of reducing greenhouse
gas levels to 40% of what was emitted
in 1990. The focus is economywide, al-
lowing 15% of the target to be achieved
through carbon off-setting activities like
forestry or agriculture. Offsets can be
helpful for industries like food produc-
tion and metal casting, where fully elim-
inating carbon is not yet possible.
While the bill sets out clear goals, pol-
icy details will be defined by a 22-mem-
ber Climate Action Council tasked with
plotting how the mandate will be real-
ized in regulating greenhouse gas emis-
sions and improving public infrastruc-
ture. It will work with advisory panels
representing transportation, industry,
urban development and agriculture.
Policies the council will develop may
resemble Californias Global Warming
Solutions Act of 2006 that led to the
mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas
emissions by larger carbon producers
like power plants, reneries and other
large industrial facilities. Companies can
buy and sell emission allowances fol-
lowing limitations set by the California
Air Resources Board. A cap-and-trade
program, it finances climate-change
readiness initiatives in local communi-
ties and across the economy through
the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
It has been successful economically; the
nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund
reports that Californias emissions have
declined by more than 13% since the bill
was enacted, while its gross state product
per capita has increased by 20% and job
growth has outpaced the national aver-
age by 27%. Clearly, business continues
to expand while becoming cleaner.
The European Union also operates
a successful platform for incentivizing
businesses to cut greenhouse gas emis-
sions. The EU Emissions Trading Sys-
tem (ETS) sets an annual cap of what a
company is allowed to emit. Allowances
can be traded as currency between com-
panies, allowing those who make strides
in reducing output to profit further.
Hefty fees come with exceeding set lim-
its, so companies with high outputs can
buy credits. By attaching a cost to emis-
sions, the ETS creates economic incen-
tives for businesses to go carbon-neutral
and implement advanced technologies
and processes to improve efficiency.
Policymakers the world over, lacking
political support or adequate resources,
have struggled to make a strong
economic case for climate initia-
tives. Smart policies like those in
California and the EU create eco-
nomically viable opportunities for
growth and meet the Paris targets.
I look forward to seeing how the
details of New Yorks CLCPA will
take shape and hope for policies
to encourage sustainable growth
of industry. I also hope it inspires other
governments internationally, especially
in the United States, to pass complemen-
tary legislation. After all, climate change
ignores borders. Avoiding its most se-
vere impacts demands cooperation at the
widest possible level.
Nabil Nasr is director of the Golisano Insti-
tute for Sustainability at the Rochester Insti-
tute of Technology and director of the Cen-
ter for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, a
technology development and transfer arm of
GIS. He founded the National Center for
Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery at
RIT. He is an IISE member.
Policymakers the world over …
have struggled to make a
strong economic case for
climate change initiatives.
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