The State of New York

Population: 19.75 million (2014)

GDP: US$1.31 trillion (2013)

Country: United States

GHG emissions (year): 211.74 MMtCO2e (2011)

GHG emissions/capita/year: 10.85 MtCO2e (2011)

New York is the USA’s third most populous state and a critical component of the US economy, a leader in climate policy, and a region that has already been heavily impacted by climate change.

The State of New York is in the Northeast region of the US and is bordered by two Great Lakes, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and by the Atlantic Ocean. New York also has the 3rd largest economy of US states by GDP, which is dominated by New York City, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world by GDP. Due the high population density of the NYC area, half of New York State’s residents live in 4% of the state’s land area. This also means that over 60% of the state’s population resides near tidal coastline. Recent extreme storm events in 2011 (Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee) and 2012 (Hurricane Sandy) as well as extreme flooding in 2013 and 2014 have made New York state residents aware of the need to plan for the impacts of climate change.

New York has some of the most ambitious climate mitigation targets in the country. In 2005, New York joined with other states to form an emission trading system, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. In 2009, the State passed Executive Order 24 that defined a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. To ensure progress towards 80-by-50, Governor Cuomo and the State Energy Planning Board released the 2015 State Energy Plan that includes three 2030 interim targets for the energy sector: reducing emissions 40% in that sector, ensuring 50% of electricity generation comes from renewables, and reducing energy consumptions in buildings 23%.

  • Key Targets / Successes

    Climate policy and GHG emissions reduction targets:

    Executive Order 24 commits the State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources by 80% below levels emitted in the year 1990 by the year 2050 (“80-by-50”). The 2015 State Energy Plan, “Reforming the Energy Vision”, further commits the state to a “40-by-30” emissions target for the energy sector and for 50% of electricity generation to be renewable by 2030. Previously the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), required 30% of electricity in New York to come from renewable energy sources by 2015, and the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) sought to reduce energy demand 15% from forecasted levels by 2015. The Governor’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda also included Climate Smart NY, a portfolio of climate policies and programs.

    Most innovative climate actions and emissions reduction successes: 

    • Emissions from fuel combustion were reduced 24% between 2005 and 2012 and emissions from all sectors were reduced more than 18%, while the economy grew by more than 10%.
    • To date, New York has earned $760M in proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (2008 through the first quarter of 2015); proceeds are primarily invested in energy efficiency, GHG abatement, clean and renewable energy programs. 
  • Current activities

    Flagship initiative:

    The Reforming the Energy Vision (or REV) Regulatory Proceeding and State Energy Plan address the fundamental regulatory and market barriers to the adoption of clean energy. The REV proceeding at the State’s Public Service Commission has six stated objectives, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring reliability and resiliency in the electricity system. Ultimately, the REV seeks to completely change the underlying business model so that electric utilities are rewarded for lowering energy demands and integrating “distributed energy resources,” like residential solar, community choice aggregation, and microgrids. The ambitious scope and scale of the REV have earned the state international attention. The State Energy Plan aligns this proceeding with programs in other energy sectors, including transportation.

    Renewable Energy:

    As a part of the REV, the State continues to support utility-scale renewable energy development, including an additional $160M competitive program in 2015. The state is also expanding programs to support distributed renewable energy. This includes the $1B NY-Sun incentive program, which is using a regional ‘Megawatt Block design’ to integrate solar systems under 200kw across the State and reach one gigawatt of solar by 2023. New York also allows for net metering of solar PV, wind, farm-based biogas and small hydro and CHP electricity generation, which encourages their adoption by allowing customers to sell excess power back to the utility. The state is also implementing innovative financing, including the $800M Green Bank, which is intended to address gaps in clean energy financing markets.

    Energy efficiency:

    Governmental agencies are leading by example, as a part Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 88, to reduce the average energy use intensity of State-owned and managed buildings by at least 20% from a 2010 baseline by 2020. . In 2015, this was expanded under the State Energy Plan such that the state is committed to reduce all building energy consumption 23% from 2005 levels by 2030. The state energy authority, NYSERDA, also provides market analyses, technical support, incentive and market-transformation programs for energy efficiency in homes, businesses, farms, and municipal operations.

    Clean transportation:

    New York State, through the ChargeNY initiative, aims to accommodate more than 30,000 plug-in electric vehicles by 2018 and 1 million by 2025.  New York is one of the 8 signatory states in the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) MOU; these states are committed to having at least 3.3 million ZEVs operating on their roadways by 2025. New York also participates in the Transportation Climate Initiative, which provide policy analysis to guide the transition to clean transportation. As a part of Climate Smart NY, the State will develop data on fuel carbon intensity to inform State policies aimed at driving down the consumption of fossil fuels. The State Energy Plan commits New York to develop fuels policies that will capture the economic benefits of reducing our reliance on petroleum fuels, similar to the way RGGI has driven reductions in power sector emissions while helping drive the transition to the clean energy economy.    

    Adaptation and mitigation in land use and municipal planning:

    Since 2009, more than 150 municipal governments in New York have voluntarily joined the Climate Smart Communities program, which includes a ten-point pledge and a voluntary certification program to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change. The Climate Resilient Farms Program is designed to develop strategies and support for New York farmers to improve resiliency and to incorporate carbon management—including sequestration—as an on-farm resource objective to mitigate negative impacts.

    The Community Risk and Resilience Act, enacted in 2014,  calls for the adoption of official sea level rise projections and consideration of sea level rise, storm surge, and flooding in certain state permitting and funding programs. The Open Space Conservation Plan, State Wildlife Action Plan, and Forest Action Plan all incorporate climate change into the State’s strategic planning for natural resources and conservation. New York was also one of the earliest adopters of recycling legislation in 1988. The state has built on this record with measures to reduce plastic bag waste and hazardous industrial waste. The Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act requires manufacturers to take responsibility for the recycling and safe disposal of their products.

  • More info

    Devolved powers and competencies relevant to climate and energy:

    The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is the state’s environmental regulatory agency that oversees compliance with climate regulations, including RGGI and the Community Risk and Resilience Act. It also houses the state Office of Climate Change.

    The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), a public benefit corporation created in 1975 by the State Legislature, provides analysis and allocates incentive programs for the adoption of renewable fuels, energy efficiency and smart grids.

    GHG breakdown by sector (%):

    New York Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2011

    Fuel Combustion

    Electricity (including imports)














    Power Supply and Delivery



    Agriculture, Forestry and Waste



    Industrial Processes and Manufacturing



    (Source: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority)

    Current power sector mix (%)

    New York Net Electricity Generation










    Natural Gas





















    (Source: US Energy Information Administration)


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