The weather was certainly shining on the Hudson Valley as more than 300 people gathered in New Paltz to take part in the third annual Climate Solutions Summit this past Saturday, just two days before world leaders were slated to gather at the United Nations for a global climate summit.
This regional and state-based summit featured student organizing. It discussed ways that communities can accomplish New York State’s ambitious clean energy and climate goals, as laid out in its Climate Leadership and Community Protect Plan (CLCPA).
The plan is specifies that 70 percent of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energy by 2030 and that the state will be emissions-free by 2040. The means to that end include more wind turbine farms, more solar farms, better mass transportation, and help enable those on fixed or low incomes to be able to participate in the transition to a fossil-fuel-free future.
The opening panel featured state senator Jen Metzger, Cuomo administration staffer Amanda Lefton, Anne Reynolds of the Alliance for Clean Energy, county legislator and Clearwater environmental director Manna Jo Greene, and environmental activist Stephan Roundtree.
“To show leadership on climate change, New York needs to get renewable energy projects built,” said Reynolds. “And the imperative to build wind and solar projects depends on communities welcoming these projects into their towns.”
The summit itself demonstrated that the transition to a renewable-energy economy was both necessary and powerfully in progress, said Greene.
“Renowned climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann cautions that we must stop burning fossil fuel now to be sure that climate solutions can and will be effective.”
There are many sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide and pollutants compromising the health of the world’s ecosystem. But fossil fuels are by far the greatest contributor to climate change and the drastic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Metzger has introduced new state bills to help create “incentives for local municipalities to build EV [Electric Vehicle] charging stations.” She is sponsoring another bill that would eliminate sales taxe on EVs. The state must also support and invest in creating walkable and cyclist-friendly communities as well as promoting mixed use in more urban area and less residential development in rural areas,” said the state senator from Rosendale. “We also have to invest in public transportation.”
Roundtree focused on the fossil-fuel emissions from motorized vehicles. “We have to reframe the way we think about traditional transportation like buses and trucks and cars,” he said.” They are emitting poison into the air. School buses are poisoning our children, the air they breathe.” He called for more commitment to renewable, non-pollutant-emitting means of transportation.
Dozens of workshops offered information about such varied topics as renewable energy technologies, heat pumps, energy efficiency, clean transportation, climate justice, clean-energy careers and education to create climate solutions.
One workshop fed off some dark humor and real-life scenarios. “Climate Change 101/Answering Denialists,” featured Tim Guinee, founder of Climate Actors and a lecturer on climate change worldwide. He was joined by Dr. Gregory Simpson, who posed questions that a climate change skeptic might propose.
“Science depends on skepticism,” said Guinee. “But there’s a difference between skepticism and denial. After reviewing all of the different evidence and facts and studies, a skeptic comes to a conclusion. A denialist refuses to entertain any hard evidence and relies on fake experts and logical fallacies.” John Stokes, a right wing radio show host, makes the claim at his rallies that Earth Day is on Hitler’s birthday. He fights the eco-Nazis by painting a swastika green and burning it. No matter that the first Earth Day was on April 22 and Hitler’s birthday is April 20.
This workshop resulted in a lot of laughter, a lot of painful truths, and a toolbox of facts that climate change activists can use to try and disarm those that are not moved by science. “It’s like having 99 revered engineers say, ‘Do not drive your family over that bridge, the bridge is going to collapse,’ and you decide to drive over it anyway!’” said Guinee.
“It was fantastic that the location for the Climate Solutions Summit was held in New Paltz this year because we are making huge strides in our community to become Climate Smart, and I found that the summit panels and workshops gave us inspiration for new solutions,” said Janelle
Peotter, coordinator for New Paltz Climate Smart. The annual summit’s goal is to provide an opportunity for organizers and people from communities across the region to come together to share projects, case studies, resources, experiences and skills to tackle climate change and implement solutions.
“2019 is a critical time for climate action, and an exciting time to be doing that work in New York State,” summed up Cal Trumann, community organizer for SunCommon, a Hudson Valley-based renewable energy firm. “Ulster County is a leader in climate policy statewide, and New York is pushing some of the most ambitious action on climate change in the country. Figuring out what works right here in New Paltz and the surrounding area can inform the climate agenda of the whole country, so it’s pretty powerful that this forward-thinking little town is hosting the summit this year.”