By Anne Isman
It comes as no surprise that Beacon students have recently become more environmentally-conscious as Mason jars and water bottles line the tables in lieu of plastic iced coffee cups. Yet in spite of the student body’s effort to make small, everyday changes to help the environment as well as they can, much of what we can do is limited. Fortunately, Beacon’s Environmental Club, which meets each Tuesday to discuss and advocate for environmental justice locally, has been working to pass large-scale environmental policy that will do much more to save the planet than using a metal straw over a plastic one.
The Environmental Club is currently working on the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). In 2016, the CCPA, which calls for making essential environmental reforms in New York, passed in the Assembly three times, but never made it to the Senate floor. In 2018, the CCPA made it through the Assembly once again, and garnered more support within the Senate. Still, this act has yet to be passed, despite its necessity given the current state of environmental policy–or lack thereof–as well as the current state of our climate.
Specifically, the CCPA would enact statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits, and set the requirement that by 2030, 50% of NYS electricity is powered by renewable energy. The CCPA also demands that 40% of NYS clean energy funds are reinvested in disadvantaged communities, or communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. Examples of these groups include those that are low-income, rely heavily on energy and fossil-fuel based industries, or suffer higher rates of air pollution. Finally, the CCPA’s most important point is that by 2050, NYS will be completely free of fossil fuels, setting an example for other states that do not have strong climate-change protection laws.
Recently, the Environmental Club traveled to Albany to lobby for the CCPA to increase support for the bill. To understand why this act is especially timely, as well as its relevance to Beacon students, I spoke to senior Leila Henry, one of Environmental Club’s leaders. In her opinion, one of the most important aspects of the bill was that “It sheds light on the fact that climate change is truly a social issue, not just an environmental one” by focusing its demands on at-risk communities. For instance, the bill seeks to provide transportation in these communities by offering low to zero-emission options, effectively making these areas more accessible through eco-friendly means.
When discussing why the Beacon student body should support the CCPA and care about environmental reform, Leila did not hesitate: “Students need to care about this issue because they live on Earth. It’s as simple as that.” Especially given the recent U.N. prediction that there will be severe risk of environmental crisis by 2040, it is necessary to pass this reform now before climate change continues to cause irreparable harm. Fortunately, if students find themselves looking to advocate for the CCPA or help spread awareness about environmental reform, the Environmental Club is always looking for new members.