ITHACA, N.Y. –– Almost 40 local climate activists joined Assemblymember Anna Kelles outside her East Court Street office in a rally for the proposed corporate emissions tax bill, the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA), on Wednesday. Local organizations Climate Justice Cornell (CJC), Sunrise Ithaca, the Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America (IDSA), Our Climate and Tompkins Mothers Out Front (TMOF) were all present.  

The rally was one of many across the state of New York as part of a statewide Climate, Jobs and Justice Action week organized by the NY Renews Coalition, a group of over 200 environmental, justice, faith, labor and community groups who fight for climate justice. Government officials joined citizens at other rallies in Albany, Buffalo, Westchester, Long Island and New York City.

The CCIA senate bill looks to raise $15 billion a year from “corporate polluters” by making fossil fuel companies pay a fee on greenhouse gases and co-pollutants. According to NY Renews, the fee would mostly be paid by companies that import fossil fuels into New York state. The fee will begin at $55 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions and will increase year after year. Based on this trajectory, the CCIA “would raise around $15 billion per year over the first 10 years.” 

NY Renews Coalition was also the group behind the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), a Senate Bill passed in 2019 mandating New York state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050 with net-zero emissions in all sectors of the economy and invest in environmental justice in disadvantaged communities. The CCIA is meant to build upon the legislation by funding the mandates stated in the CLCPA.

“At its core, the climate crisis is a social justice issue, and we need legislation that treats it as such,” said Siobhan Hull, event coordinator and member of Climate Justice Cornell and Sunrise Ithaca. 

She continued, “Fossil fuel companies have been damaging [low-income and marginalized] communities for decades, and they need to be held financially responsible for the harm that they have caused. …We need a policy that begins to combat the systemic racism and classism that underlies the climate crisis. [The CCIA] takes an important, and necessary, step towards change by reinvesting funds back into these frontline communities.”

The money would be invested back into green jobs, frontline communities and a renewable economy for New York State. According to the event’s press release these solutions “would quickly and equitably draw down New York’s emissions while building a stronger, more just economy for all.” 

The press release goes on to explain that the CCIA will fund large-scale projects like offshore wind, energy rebates for the bottom 60 percent of households by income, tenant-owned solar in frontline communities, public transit, housing and schools as well as labor training that will help transition fossil fuel-dependent workers and communities. The bill is estimated to create and sustain 150,000 jobs over the next decade.

 Along with demands for the passage of CCIA, the local organizations rallying Wednesday urged members of Congress to sign on to theTHRIVE Agenda,” a resolution which asks the Federal Government to “implement an agenda to Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy.” 

The resolution commits the government to enforcing liberal policies addressing climate change and inequality including taking steps to ensure the climate stays “below 1.5 degrees celsius of global warming” and overhaul the power sector, “in order to move the country, by not later than 2035, to carbon pollution-free electricity that passes an environmental justice screen to prevent concentrating pollution  in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities”

Despite this ask, most of the rally Wednesday focused on demanding that corporations, which contribute more to climate change than the government or private citizens, commit to change. 

“As much as I hate it, my future is dependent on the changes big corporations are willing to make… if corporations aren’t willing to change the way they function to support us, it is our job to take control of our future and speak up,” said Edin Lewis, an organizer with Our Climate.

Wednesday’s rally saw Ithacans from all walks of life including voices from local high schoolers, college students and community members, bringing together multiple generations of activists. Unifying generations was highlighted in more than just the activist groups –– Hannah Brodsky, from Climate Justice Cornell, was joined by her peers in calling on an older generation of lawmakers to consider benefiting younger Americans by mitigating climate change and inequality. 

“New York has been leading the country when it comes to a just transition,” Brodsky said. “Passing the CCIA will motivate other states to champion similar climate justice legislation, helping communities across the country.”

Assemblymember Anna Kelles gave the final speech of the rally, pledging to support and advocate for the bill once it’s introduced to the New York State Assembly.

“CCIA is one piece of a large pie and we need every single piece of it and we’re not going to settle for anything less…One step at a time we’ll get it, we’ll inspire and we’ll uplift everyone,” Kelles said.