June 18, 2021 - Two big things are heating up in New York: the climate and the upcoming mayoral election.
New Yorkers will be going to the polls this upcoming Tuesday, June 22nd to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries for the next New York City mayor. This election is crucial because the next New York mayor will be responsible for leading the City through its pandemic recovery and addressing the looming threat of climate change.
New York, which rests a mere 33 feet above sea level, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as sea levels continue to rise and threaten coastal communities. New York was also recently declared a subtropical climate zone due to its increasingly warm temperatures.
This is why New Yorkers are paying particular attention to which candidates will make actionable changes to address the climate crisis. The primaries are also special this year because this is the first time ranked-choice voting will be used in a New York mayoral election. This means that voters do not just choose one candidate; instead they can rank them according to preference.
With 15 candidates still in the race, we take a closer look at how the top candidates are rising to the challenge of bringing equitable and clean energy to New York.
Eric Adams, a retired NYPD officer and the current Brooklyn Borough President, is the frontrunner in the race. Adams’ plan is centered on making New York City an international leader in wind energy. His plan is to leverage existing waterfront locations like Staten Island and the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to build wind generation assets.
Adams has outlined distinct steps that will activate his bold goals. He is committed to expediting the project approval process by creating a Wind Power Development Team based out of City Hall and providing guaranteed funding for future wind energy projects (although he has not provided a dollar amount). Adams also plans to empower communities of color and lower-income communities with training resources to help them find jobs in the renewable energy industry.
Other initiatives that Adams has also committed to include investing in green infrastructure, increasing battery storage capacity, decreasing reliance on oil-and-gas peaker plants, providing incentives for community solar, and increasing the number of electric buses.
In the past few weeks, Maya Wiley has soared to the top of the polls after receiving endorsements from notable politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Wiley has a strong background in New York City politics, having previously served as a general counsel to the outgoing mayor, Bill De Blasio.
Wiley’s clean energy goals are centered on environmental justice and her plan is aptly titled the Community First Climate Action Plan. Wiley plans to leverage the expertise of existing community leaders, organizations, and mutual aid groups to equitably increase access to clean energy through onsite solar, community solar, and microgrids.
Her campaign promises a $7-10 million ‘Green Workforce Investment’ that will create well-paying union jobs for communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. This endeavor will be partly funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which provides billions in state funding for localities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Wiley aims to decrease the influence of the private sector and the fossil fuel industry on New York politics. She supports closing all of the city’s oil and gas peaker plants by 2030 and stopping any funding for new facility development.
She plans to build on existing initiatives launched by De Blasio’s administration, such as Renewable Rikers. Wiley would allocate $3 billion towards transforming Rikers into a clean energy and energy storage hub.
Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, now has his sights set on becoming the mayor of New York City. Yang seeks to have 80 percent of New York City’s electricity needs come from renewable energy sources by 2030--this exceeds the state’s target of 70 percent in the same time frame. To achieve this, Yang has a five-point plan centered around boosting renewables, green jobs, and public education.
As Mayor, Yang would streamline the permitting and interconnection process for solar, wind, and storage projects. His office would work closely with the state government, Public Service Commission, NYISO, and Con Edison to do this.
Yang plans on mobilizing private investments to fund his green infrastructure plans. He calls on public and private pension, endowment, and other fund managers in the City to divest from the fossil fuel industry and reallocate capital to support clean energy projects.
Yang also plans to work closely with Con Edison and the private sector to build a citywide electric vehicle (EV) charging system. To lead by example, he would push to fully electrify the City’s vehicle fleet by 2035.
Prior to her run for mayor, Kathryn Garcia served as the commissioner for the New York City Sanitation Department from 2014 to 2020. She also served in several roles in the NYC Department of Environmental Protection under the Bloomberg administration. Her reputation as a person that gets the job done recently scored her an endorsement from the New York League of Conservation Voters--placing her as the #1 candidate for one of the largest environmental organizations in the U.S.
Garcia places a strong emphasis on transportation electrification as part of her climate plan. Her campaign promises to triple the availability of public car chargers and create incentives to make it easier for New Yorkers to buy EVs. Garcia plans to implement a zero-interest loan program that will help small businesses replace their diesel vans with heavy-duty EVs. She also has a goal of deploying more than 10,000 electric school buses immediately and having the entire fleet 100 percent electrified by 2040.
Garcia is also a strong supporter of the Renewable Rikers initiative and plans to allocate funding to make it a reality.
Scott Stringer is the current Comptroller of New York City. Previously, he was also a New York State Assemblyman and the Manhattan Borough President. If his impressive list of qualifications for the job of mayor were not enough, this past year his office announced that two major NYC pension funds will divest 100 percent from fossil fuel companies. This led to the reallocation of almost $4 billion to green investments.
As mayor, Stringer would seek to create a public utility to power the city with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. He also plans to retire all existing pipelines and ban new fossil fuel infrastructure development.
Stringer’s climate plan includes creating tens of thousands of new green jobs. He plans to do this by launching the nation’s biggest bonds program to develop green infrastructure in New York. Similar to Wiley and Garcia, Stringer is a supporter of Renewable Rikers.
Each of the top candidates in the mayoral race have a comprehensive plan to address climate change and increasingly scale up clean energy solutions. Hence, regardless of what the results are next week, voters can go to the polls knowing that the next mayor will put in the work to create a greener New York.
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