Climate Council Member Says There Are Lessons To Learn From Coronavirus Response

PUBLISHED 10:11 PM ET OCT. 26, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York’s Climate Action Council was fully formed in March and has met three times this year.

Member Dennis Elsenbeck said the meetings have been primarily presentations from consultants and members of the technical community so far. They’ve also been limited by the pandemic.

“All of the meetings since March have been remote so these are conference calls over the phone. It doesn’t create a real efficient exchange of ideas,” he said.

Elsenbeck, the head of Energy and Sustainability at Phillips Lytle, said the council has now broken down into smaller advisory groups where he believes they can start making real progress toward New York’s aggressive carbon reduction goals. Forty percent of the billions in earmarked spending must benefit disadvantaged communities.

“We need to spend time defining what is a disadvantaged community but we also then need to turn to our communities and let them define what benefit means,” he said.

Elsenbeck said while the coronavirus pandemic has created hurdles in meeting, it also created a roadmap for how government should address climate change.

“How did we respond to COVID as a crisis so that we’re actually thinking about the United States? We changed regulations,” he said. “We expedited the research process, the regulatory process. We looked at equipment production that was needed in the marketplace.”

During the early stages of the pandemic, the state and the country faced a supply chain breakdown because things like ventilators and PPE weren’t manufactured domestically. Elsenbeck said the climate crisis might not be quite as immediate but supply chain issues are very similar.

“The vast majority of the products that will help New York achieve its goals are not made in New York and they’re not made in the United States so we need to think about the implementation strategy from what we learned from COVID,” he said.

He continues to believe New York should take the opportunity to let the energy market identify needs and solutions with financial and regulatory support from the government.

The council was given until 2022 compile its initial policy document.