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Know Your Rights
Source: Capital New York
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Labor-backed coalition to push lawmakers on climate change

The Working Families Party will join with environmental and community groups in a new coalition that pushes politicians to act on climate change.

The Take Sides coalition will go beyond the state’s environmental groups, reaching out to labor unions, minority communities and grassroots organizations now largely focused on education and health care issues, according to organizers.

In addition to the political muscle of the Working Families Party, the coalition will include Make the Road New York, and Citizen Action, which has previously focused on elections, education and health care.

Additional groups will soon sign on, said Travis Proulx, the spokesman for Environmental Advocates of New York.

“Making statements on climate change isn’t enough, you have to act on climate change,” Proulx said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was recently criticized by a federal Environmental Protection Agency official for describing human-caused climate change as a political debate, will be among the coalition’s first targets. The group is calling on Cuomo to formulate a climate action plan to better address its effects in New York.

“Every day that Governor Cuomo fails to deliver a climate action plan hurts our communities and working families,” said Working Families Party state director Bill Lipton in a statement. “The real story of climate change in New York are the Sandy and Irene survivors trying to recover and find a place to call home, the loved ones with increased medical bills due to poor air quality, and the neighbors struggling to put healthy food on the table because extreme weather has driven up costs.”

The Working Families Party endorsed Cuomo in last year’s election, then criticized him afterward for not doing enough to support other party-backed candidates.

Cuomo administration officials have pointed to his record on growing renewable energy, reworking the energy grid to accommodate solar and wind and the fracking ban as evidence that he believes addressing climate change is a priority.

“We’re not so concerned about putting a plan on the shelf—we’re committed to action, and we’re much more interested in results than words in this case,” state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens said in an interview Friday on “The Capitol Pressroom.”

Coalition members did not immediately reveal how much they were prepared to spend on the group’s efforts.

Democratic Assembly speaker Carl Heastie convened a climate change work group in February to explore policy initiatives that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the state and federal level. That group has not met yet, but is expected to do so this week.

In the Republican-led Senate, ranking G.O.P. senator John DeFrancisco and some of his colleagues recently objected to the inclusion of the phrase “climate change” in an Earth Day resolution.

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