Position Statement – 2019
A.3876 (Englebright)/S.2992 (Kaminsky)
New York State Climate and Community Protection Act
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) strongly supports the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act, which passed the Assembly in 2018 and has been reintroduced in the Assembly and Senate this legislative session. This legislation addresses and helps mitigate the impacts of climate change and the burning of fossil fuels in the State of New York. WBASNY has a keen interest in the bills because, as the bills state, climate change has a disproportionate impact on women, among others. In addition, climate change exacerbates air pollution and increases incidences of asthma attacks and other negative health outcomes. WBASNY is deeply concerned about the resulting health-related impacts on children, which are a sensitive population that can be disproportionately affected by pollution.
WBASNY is deeply committed to protecting women’s and children’s health and addressing climate change and its impacts, which include drought, floods, extreme weather events and reduced food and water security. A United Nations organization states that “Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women.”  In addition to climate change, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels create pollution that causes premature deaths and serious health problems. The World Health Organization states that “An estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to ambient air pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children….In children and adults, both short- and long-term exposure to ambient air pollution can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. Maternal exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, pre-term birth and small gestational age births. Emerging evidence also suggests ambient air pollution may affect diabetes and neurological development in children.” Children can be disproportionately affected by pollution because they breathe more air relative to their size than adults do, their bodies are not fully developed, and their growing organs can be more easily harmed. This sensitive population, as well as the general public, suffers from an energy infrastructure that relies on fossil fuels.
WBASNY supports the proposed legislation because:
- The proposed legislation would add a new Climate Change article to the New York Environmental Conservation Law that would require the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to: establish specified statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits expressed as a percentage of 1990 emissions (including 50% of 1990 emissions by 2030, and 0% of 1990 emissions by 2050); create a scoping plan and promulgate regulations to achieve the emissions reductions; issue annual statewide greenhouse gas emissions reports; issue periodic implementation reports on greenhouse gas reduction measures; and create a climate action council and a climate justice working group.
- The legislation would also: amend the New York Public Service Law and New York Public Authorities Law to require that half of the electricity generated in New York State come from renewable energy sources by 2030; amend the New York Labor Law to require job standards and worker protection for certain projects undertaken pursuant to the Act; require state agencies to assess and implement strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions; require state agencies to consider whether their permitting and funding decisions would affect the attainment of the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits; and require certain assessment and mitigation of climate change risks.
- In addition, NYSDEC would be required to issue a report on barriers to, and opportunities for, community ownership of services and commodities in disadvantaged communities, which typically bear environmental burdens and are most likely to be most affected by climate change. These services and commodities include distributed renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and weatherization investments, and zero-emission and low-emission transportation options. The bills identify funding that would be invested in these services and commodities in disadvantaged communities.
Codification of New York’s strong renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals while adding a comprehensive framework aimed at their attainment are included in this legislation. The bills are also groundbreaking because they include environmental justice provisions for disadvantaged communities. The passage of this legislation would place New York State at the forefront, nationally and internationally, with respect to addressing climate change and pollution related to fossil fuels. With atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide now reaching their highest levels in millions of years after an unprecedented rate of increase, the nation and the international community urgently need leaders. New York should take on that leadership role immediately by passage and enactment of the landmark Climate and Community Protection Act.
As an organization comprised of attorneys and judges across the state in private practice, government, academia and the courts dedicated to the advancement of women in law and society, WBASNY strongly supports these bills.
 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Gender and Climate Change webpage, https://unfccc.int/topics/gender/the-big-picture/introduction-to-gender-and-climate-change.
 World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/airpollution/ambient/health-impacts/en/.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, America’s Children and the Environment, Third Ed. (January 23, 2013),https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/ace3_2013.pdf.