NEW PALTZ – Assemblymember Kevin Cahill joined a distinguished panel of academics in a forum to discuss climate change and making New York proactive. Along with the Assemblyman, Dr. Brian Obach, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Environmental Studies Program and Dr. Sara Hsu, Associate Professor of Economics gave a talk entitled “Tax Pollution: How a Carbon Tax Can Save the Planet, Create Jobs and Reduce Poverty”. The gathering took place at the College Terrace at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Faculty, staff, community leaders and the general public participated.
The Assemblymember and Professor Hsu discussed the need to create a carbon tax, including the economic factors, climate impact and political aspects of its passage and implementation. Mr. Cahill carries the bill (A.107) which will establish a structure to limit carbon discharge throughout our State. The measure was introduced following collaboration with Professor Hsu and her students. It would impose a fee of $35 per ton of CO2 on fuel distributors and utilities, increasing by $15 annually. Intended to be cost neutral to the public, sixty percent of the revenue would be placed in an emissions fund to be distributed to low and moderate income New Yorkers. “As the world grapples with climate change, now is the time to take action and implement proven solutions.
Similar efforts in the United Kingdom, Sweden and British Columbia have demonstrated that this policy has the desired effect – a real reduction in carbon emission. Although the word ‘tax’ may not be a popular one, I do not intend to hide what this program really is. Experience teaches that when the State places a financial dis-incentive on using fossil fuels, we can we see changes in behavior and reduction in pollution.
Tonight’s forum allowed us to have a frank discussion about how we can move forward toward change and delve into the many aspects of the issue,” stated Assemblymember Cahill, who is a former Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee. “The College embraces its role as a convener for such critical topics of discussion,” said SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian. “As a proud SUNY New Paltz alumnus, we appreciate Assemblymember Cahill’s efforts to engage with the campus community in a dialogue about climate change and potential ways to mitigate its impact. Our academic programs, faculty expertise and student interest align well with this goal.” Professor Hsu agreed, “A carbon tax is the solution to accelerating climate change, since it curbs the intensive use of fossil fuels that create the greenhouse effect. Far from reducing economic growth, a policy of taxing carbon can actually boost development as well promote the use of renewable energy. Back in 2013, SUNY New Paltz students came up with the idea to promote a carbon tax. Since then, we have valued working with Assemblymember Cahill to introduce a carbon tax bill in New York State and hope to garner further political support for this important policy.”
Student representatives at the College voiced support for the proposal. “It is my hope that in taxing methane, using fracked gas for electricity will become economically unviable for New York. This would force us to invest in energy efficiency and wind and solar power. Then we can get New York on track to run on 100% clean energy. Climate change is the greatest threat humanity is facing today. Without socially responsible decisions regarding energy policy, that threat will be our demise. I also want to thank Assemblymember Kevin Cahill and Professor Sara Hsu for doing this and a special thanks to Professor Brian Obach for helping put this event together tonight,” said Lyndsey Cooper, SUNY New Paltz student and NYPIRG volunteer.
Gerald Benjamin, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at SUNY New Paltz and the Director of the Benjamin Center, a sponsor of the event, added, “We are proud to help sponsor this is extraordinary example of the synergy that can result from combining education, passion about an environmental issue and effective representation to produce thoughtful policy innovation. Working with Assemblyman Cahill, students see their ideas turned into a real initiative upon which the legislature can act, a focal point for positive change for all of New York State.”
Professor Brian Obach, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at the College helped organize the event and remarked: "I am very pleased whenever our elected representatives work with SUNY faculty. The experts here have much to contribute to developing sound state policy, and having responsive elected leaders willing to use that expertise makes for ideal collaborations. Assemblymember Cahill has been at the forefront of much important environmental policy initiatives and we are excited to highlight his work with Professor Hsu on this effort to combat climate change,” commented Professor Obach, Director of Environmental Studies Program at SUNY New Paltz.
“While New York has taken great steps to promote clean energy and reduce emissions, we are still far from reaching our long term sustainability goals within the State. After the Trump Administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and has systematically weakened the Environmental Protection Agency, it is important for New York to take the lead in addressing climate change and CO2 emissions. As with so many subjects today, I am proud that young people are leading the way to propose solutions that have daunted for too long,” concluded Assemblymember Cahill.