April 17, 2019

GUEST ROOM | All Youth, Despite Political Affiliation, Need to Fight Against Climate Change

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Young people across the political spectrum agree: Climate change is a serious issue. I have talked about this issue with young Republicans, Democrats and independents. A recent study showed that 85 percent of young adults ages 18 to 25, regardless of political affiliation, believe that the federal government needs to do more to support clean energy. Across the board, young voters agree that government action needs to be taken against climate change.

The Youth Climate Strike held on March 15 was an excellent demonstration of the solidarity amongst young Americans on the issue of climate change. However, we need to take more action in order to ensure that our representatives and lawmakers pass climate protection laws. This is why last Tuesday, April 9, I decided to travel to Albany along with other students across the state for Our Climate’s Youth Lobby Day. Together, we met with our state representatives and asked them to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act and the Climate and Community Investment Act.

The CCPA is legislation that would set New York on a path to achieving 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The CCIA would put a price on greenhouse gas emissions to de-incentivize fossil fuels and financially support the CCPA. This would also allow renewable energy to develop in a fair market because the price of energy from each sector would reflect its environmental impact. To achieve this, the act would establish a price for each ton of GHG emissions that all polluters in New York would have to pay. To start off, it would be $10 per ton and then increase in the years following. The money would then be distributed into four categories, with 30 percent going to clean energy jobs and infrastructure, 33 percent for investment into the communities most impacted by pollution and climate change, 7 percent for a transition from fossil fuel jobs to clean energy jobs and 30 percent going towards a tax rebate fund. This act will lead to hundreds of thousands of new, green-collar jobs with high salaries and good benefits (currently, 55 percent of these do not require a college degree). Furthermore, it will generate billions of dollars in revenue for the state of New York. Overall, it will be economically and environmentally beneficial to New York State.

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton represents the Ithaca area and supports both the CCPA and the CCIA. Lifton voted in favor of the CCPA, which has passed in the Assembly for the past three years. However, the CCIA has not yet been brought to a vote. Sen. Thomas O’Mara (R-N.Y.), who represents the Ithaca, Elmira, Corning and Watkins Glen area, does not currently support the two bills, and neither bill has been brought to the floor of the Senate. However, O’Mara has shown support for other aspects of environmental protection such as water quality, recycling programs, e-bike programs and food waste. For this reason, we believed that he could be open to the idea of passing the CCPA and CCIA. During our meeting with Senator O’Mara, we asked that he reconsider supporting the CCPA because of the benefits it will bring to New York.

Our government representatives, who are primarily composed of an older generation, have not been taking serious action against climate change. This not only leaves the brunt of the impacts on us, the youth, but it gives us no other choice than to take action, no matter what political affiliation we hold. We all need to encourage our representatives to pass strong, equitable climate legislation that is based on science. One easy action to take is to write letters to, call or set up a meeting with your elected officials to describe your opinions and concerns. For those of you from other N.Y. counties, I encourage you to contact your senator or assembly member and encourage them to vote in favor of the CCPA and CCIA. We need to take action now and show our representatives that this is an issue that students care about. We must fight for a clean environment before our climate is too polluted and it is too late to go back.

Eva Milstein-Touesnard is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. Guest Room appears periodically this semester. Comments may be sent to opinion@cornellsun.com.