Opinion: Pass the Climate and Community Investment Act

Opinion: Pass the Climate and Community Investment Act
Brooklyn Shorefront. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

By Senator Andrew Gounardes and the Bay Ridge Environmental Group

It’s long past time for bold climate action in New York State. Strong action on climate change will protect southern Brooklyn from natural disasters and rising seas, but also deliver direct benefits to many southern Brooklyn families both through jobs and cheaper electricity. That is why we need to pass the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA). [See the full Senate & Assembly versions of the bill.]

Often, we hear so much about the threat of climate change without thinking of what it means for our own homes and lives. Still, the facts are clear. Climate change will disrupt life in every community by destroying homes and businesses, forcing people to relocate. This is already true right here in southern Brooklyn, where we saw the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy on our communities. And when sea levels rise by several feet, it will make entire parts of southern Brooklyn, from Marine Park to Coney Island, uninhabitable. The truth is, climate change has already started to disrupt every community around the world, and we must enact legislation to prevent this from getting worse.

Action on climate change is necessary in the long-term, but we can make it work for us right now as well. This is the goal of the CCIA. Smart climate policy will not only protect us from the worst effects of climate change, but lower our electricity rates and create thousands of new jobs in wind and solar power, including right here in southern Brooklyn. In fact, the CCIA would create and sustain over 150,000 new jobs in the green energy sector in its first decade. Smart climate policy does not need to just involve top-down regulation, but should include direct investment in communities so they can have access to cheap, clean power and protect themselves from the most damaging effects of climate change. The CCIA would do this by allowing community groups to choose how they invest in climate-friendly practices and infrastructure.

The CCIA will require polluters to pay for the carbon they emit. But that’s not the end of the story. The money collected through the CCIA will be transformative and will directly benefit communities in southern Brooklyn. There are two main ways that revenue from the CCIA will create benefits for southern Brooklyn. First, the money will directly fund communities so they can build more resilient infrastructure and develop their own clean energy. Second, the money will be used to provide a rebate on electricity bills for the lowest-earning 60% of households in the state. This means that the state will be able to transition to cleaner, cheaper electricity without breaking the bank for households around the state, including for residents in southern Brooklyn.

The CCIA is about making sure that every community has the resources it needs to transition to a cleaner future, and providing as much help as possible to keep households from feeling the costs of that transition.

Right here in southern Brooklyn, the CCIA will provide money for infrastructure that we sorely need. Improvements on the Belt Parkway, a beautified and more resilient waterfront, and protections for our homes against future storms like Hurricane Sandy are just a few of the ways we can improve and strengthen our community through the CCIA. In fact, a proposal I put forward has, for years, sought to address the waterfront revitalization issue by advocating for a new Narrows Waterfront Park that would include flood protections to be added to all stretches of the Belt Parkway, which borders the waterfront area. This would design a unified park and create a public space that is simultaneously a destination and an attraction that would also contribute significant infrastructure improvements to the southern Brooklyn waterfront.

Beyond that, the development of offshore wind, which is already planned, could bring jobs and income into southern Brooklyn. Already in Sunset Park, plans are underway for a station that will connect cheap, abundant offshore wind to the electrical grid. Southern Brooklyn could receive the same investment, and the jobs that go along with it.

The CCIA is an investment in us and in our neighborhoods to make sure that we are part of the solution on climate change, and that we create well-paying jobs in the process. We can’t afford to ignore climate change, but we can afford the CCIA. It’s the bold and smart climate policy we need; it’s good for the planet, it’s good for New York, and it’s good for southern Brooklyn.