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Climate Justice

New York City and the Bronx are threatened by the impacts of climate change. Sea level rise, heat vulnerability, drought, hurricanes, poorer air quality, and economic recession are all caused by the climate crisis. Many of those hit home in the Bronx where there isn’t enough greenery to cool some neighborhoods and where neighborhoods often suffer from poor air quality. And more intense storms test our resilience on every level.

  • Economic recovery through a just transition

  • Measure what matters

  • Establishing a Climate Agency in NYC and accelerating the Climate Mobilization Act

  • Ban fossil fuel infrastructure

NYC’s recovery must prioritize investment in frontline communities that have suffered the worst impacts of climate change and economic hardship. We also need investment in training and new job creation to sustain a Just Transition.

 

I wrote the Bronx Pandemic Reconstruction Program to prioritize investment in free training, education, and apprenticeship for the kinds of jobs that we need to take with us into the future. These include the jobs we think of as green like renewable energy, solar installation, building retrofits. And it also includes technology, entrepreneurship, socially responsible businesses, and the “caring economy” in child and elder care jobs. This program would create 10,000 jobs and would create free, degree-pathway classes at CUNY and SUNY to help prepare workers to reconstruct the Bronx.  Organized Labor is an important partner in the Just Transition and in creating and maintaining strong upwardly mobile jobs.  See Economic Recovery 

 

This is a time when we reorient our economy, infrastructure, and city to stand up to the challenges of the 21st century. The Bronx Pandemic Reconstruction Program is one piece of the puzzle. If we are successful, we can remove NYC and the Bronx from the systems that are going to cause significant harm in the future: rampant consumerism, unchecked growth, and human rights violations.

 

We need to measure what matters and replace the consumer economy with a circular economy.

 

A rising GDP is not the best indicator of sustainable and successful governance. We need to pursue new metrics that really measure what matters:

  • Do people have good, well-paying jobs with benefits? 

  • Do people have high life satisfaction and good health?

  • Do people have the incomes they need to thrive?

  • Is our environment safe and clean?

Our city government can work with businesses and solve problems more effectively if we point them in the right direction with better metrics for success. This can mean supporting certified Benefit Corporations, businesses that support the caring economy, and businesses that strive for Circular Economy principles.

 

What is the circular economy?

The circular economy is a new model for our economy that goes beyond extraction and consumption and focuses on benefits for people and the environment. This is done by reducing waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use to eliminate the disposable economy, and regenerating the natural systems around us. In the Bronx, this includes building renewable energy, bike lanes, improving composting and recycling, eliminating disposable plastics, and more. 

 

What happens when we measure what matters?

If we set our management objectives to real-world issues we all face, then we can actually solve the problems. Longer life expectancy is just one measurement, but what if the council considered more when making decisions? I think we have to measure, manage, and publish metrics for air quality, ground-level ozone, asthma hospitalizations, housing costs, food access, and heat vulnerability.  If we aim to improve on these measures of Environmental Justice, we will undo the injustices of the past and create healthier communities.

 

Move up the Climate Mobilization Act date to 2027.

 

We need to build upon the landmark Climate Mobilization Act to make NYC one of the world leaders among urban centers in the transition to a cleaner, greener economy. It is important that we as a Council move the date for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions up from 2030 to 2027. In addition, we need to include smaller buildings, with provisions to keep low-income folks safe from increased costs in housing. Most analyses that model the impact of retrofitting our buildings to be more efficient and to remove fossil fuels show three things: it creates jobs, lowers air pollution, and saves money through lower operating costs.

New York City needs to establish an independent Climate Agency to coordinate initiatives, provide oversight, and provide transparency for the City Council.

 

Currently, NYC climate and sustainability initiatives are spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, but the Mayor’s office oversees their operations, not the City Council. The best way to ensure that our tax dollars are spent wisely and support serious climate action is to establish a Climate Agency. It will work with the Council to draft legislation, provide oversight of projects, and coordinate initiatives like the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Having an agency serving elected representatives will give legislators more access to information about what ordinances are most effective, what subsidies and initiatives are working, and what we need to work harder on.

We have to ban fossil fuel infrastructure to meet our climate goals.

I plan to pursue a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines and natural gas in buildings. If we want to stop and reverse climate change, we have to stop emitting greenhouse gases now and to do that we need to stop building greenhouse gas emitting infrastructure now. We can work together for a phased-in approach to replace existing fossil fuel infrastructure, but the immediate need is a ban on building new fossil fuel infrastructure that locks in future planet-warming emissions.