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New York bucks Trump on Paris Climate Agreement

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President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement was met with a promise from several New York officials to uphold their end of the accord, in part by ramping up renewable energy production.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced shortly after Trump’s June 1 announcement that New York would join in a climate alliance with California and Washington to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. Cuomo the next day announced another initiative, Clean Climate Careers, which seeks proposals from developers for up to $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects.

The 195-country Paris Climate Agreement allows countries to set their own benchmarks for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius before the end of the century. The U.S. committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and also committed up to $3 billion in aid for poorer countries.

In pulling out of the deal, Trump said the climate agreement would hurt U.S. business and damage its sovereignty. He said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” when announcing the withdrawal.

Cuomo called Trump’s choice reckless. His efforts to maintain the goals of the agreement in New York place the state among a large group of cities and corporations — including Westchester-based companies such as PepsiCo and IBM — and other states that have reasserted their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris accords.

Since the U.S. Climate Alliance launched with its three founding states, Connecticut and eight other states have joined, including Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. Puerto Rico has also joined the alliance.

The alliance commits each state to a goal of reducing emissions at a level that would meet the U.S. commitment in the Paris agreement. As coalition members, each state must also try to meet or exceed the emissions reduction targets of former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Separately, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was one of 20 state attorneys general to join the “We Are Still In” pledge. The pledge has been taken by the leaders of more than 1,000 states, cities, universities and corporations. It commits each to the emission reductions goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Schneiderman also leads a coalition of state attorneys general that promises to challenge any rollback of the Clean Power Plan.

The mayors of New York’s five largest cities by population — New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers and Syracuse — also have all in some way promised commitment to the goals of the climate agreement.

As part of Cuomo’s Clean Climate Careers initiative, the state will issue requests for proposals to build renewable energy projects that his office said will generate more than 2.5 million megawatt hours of electricity a year. The solicitations will come from both the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Power Authority for $1.5 billion in new projects in wind power, commercial solar and solar arrays, along with other forms of renewable-energy technology.

Those projects would be part of a major scaling-up of renewable energy resources that New York will need to meet its own greenhouse gas reduction goals, which are more aggressive than those the U.S. committed to in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Cuomo has set state targets to reduce emissions to 40 percent below the state’s 1990 levels by 2030, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. That effort is intertwined with the state’s Clean Energy Standard, which requires utilities and other energy suppliers to quickly phase in enough renewable power sources to allow New York to receive half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The standard has been criticized by some environmental and business groups, however, for its inclusion of a multibillion-dollar subsidy to help keep three upstate nuclear plants in operation.

New York is also part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an alliance of nine states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region that caps emissions from power generation. In January, Cuomo pledged New York would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030 and encouraged other RGGI states to do the same.

Cuomo said the Clean Climate Careers program could help create 40,000 jobs in clean energy by 2020.

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