Thursday, October 08, 2015


Thank you. Thank you very much. Well it is a pleasure to be here at Columbia University. It is a pleasure to be with so many of my colleagues from the New York State Legislature from the Assembly and the Senate. I call a meeting, not this many show up. This is actually a forum. We can actually pass legislation in this room. Anyone have any proposals?

Our colleagues from the New York City Council, let’s give them a round of applause. And as the President said, a special friend to Columbia, a special friend to me, a great national leader, it’s always a joy to be with Vice President Al Gore. Let’s give him a round of applause. And I’ll have more to say about the Vice President in a moment.

It’s relevant that we make this announcement here at Columbia, because as President Bollinger said, Columbia, besides being a great academic institution, really has been responsible when it comes to environmental matters. We’re now partnering with Columbia University in building a 15 megawatt micro-grid and co-generation plant which will reduce the cost of energy to the university, it will add to resiliency, and it will also protect the environment. It is a very forward vision and we applaud Columbia and we applaud President Bollinger for taking this kind of step. Let’s give him a round of applause.

And you couldn’t have a better specific forum than the Earth Institute which has been a pioneer in tackling global problems such as climate change, poverty and disease by recognizing the interconnection and the connectivity among the problems and among the people globally. They really have done outstanding work. We all owe them a debt of gratitude. To the Earth Institute.

In my position as Governor, you get to see the scope and full spectrum of the challenges facing society today. Many of the issues we work on are issues to improve society: we want a better education system; we want a better transportation system; we want a better economic system; we want a fairer justice system. But climate change is different. Climate change is not about making society better. Climate change is an issue of society’s sustainability. To deny that climate change is real is to defy reason. I like to say that denial is never a successful life strategy. In the case of climate change, denial is not a survival strategy.

Current projections estimate that sea levels will rise one to four feet by 2100. If that is true, New York State would be devastated. It’s that simple. Even at a fraction of that rise, Manhattan as we know it would be gone, not to mention millions of people along the East Coast would be misplaced, with hundreds of billions of dollars of real estate value disappeared.

Besides the scientists’ projections, our own practical experiences demonstrate a shift. I’ve been Governor for four and a half years and I’ve had nine weather-related emergencies in four in half years. My father was governor for twelve years and he had eleven.

The emergencies during my father’s term, were basically heavy snow storms – nothing new, but they were worse and they were dangerous. I have had hurricanes, tornadoes and floods in places they have never happened before. I’ve been in houses that stood for over one hundred years and never had a drop of water in the basement that are now washed away. Seven feet of snow fell at one time in Buffalo - an historic high. In Buffalo. And that’s saying something. And Hurricane Sandy which we all experienced, was just unprecedented.

Climate change is a reality and not to address it is gross negligence by government and irresponsible as citizens.

We know what needs to be done, we just need the political will to do it. In New York, thanks to the action of the New York State Legislature, we are well underway:

We established the state’s fist carbon dioxide emissions standard when siting new power plants which will ensure that no new dirty, coal-burning plants will be built in the State of New York, period. We are also repowering and converting or closing the existing coal plants.

Working with our nine northeast state Regional Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade Coalition, we reduced our carbon emissions cap by 45 percent.

We’re reducing energy consumption at state facilities by 20 percent by 2020.

In four years, we have gone from less than a dozen public charging outlets for electric vehicles, over 1,200 today. We put solar panels on nearly 30,000 homes and businesses and we’ll do another 150,000 by 2020

We will install renewable energy including solar, wind and geothermal on all state campuses by 2020 and we are challenging all private colleges to financially partner with us in doing the same, Mr. President.

We have set the most aggressive carbon emissions target in the nation with a mandate of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we take the next step by signing the Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding, which commits New York State to a global effort to keep the earth’s average temperature from rising two degrees Celsius from the pre-industrial level benchmark.

A UN panel on Climate Change determined that global temperatures must not increase by two degrees Celsius in order to avert a catastrophic impact of climate change, including sea level rise that would create extreme weather, cause mega-droughts, and lead to food scarcity.

We’ll be joining 42 other jurisdictions in 19 countries on five continents that have made this same commitment to reduce emissions.

As UN climate negotiations begin in Paris this December, the powerful collective of signatories to the MOU are demonstrating the urgency of action, and the importance of setting binding targets. World leaders must now follow suit.

We also announce today that we understand that carbon markets are a powerful tool for reducing the pollution that is contributing to climate change. Small regional coalitions are not enough. Therefore, today, I have directed my administration to reach out to our partners in other states, such as California as well as the Canadian provinces about building a broader North American market to collectively reduce harmful emissions. Hopefully, this will drive a national discussion to every state in the nation.

In short, we can address climate change. We know how to do it, we can do it. We must just have the political will and the leadership to do it and we must take the first step and the first step is always deciding to do it and committing ourselves as a body politic to do it. It is just a question of commitment and of focus and of leadership.

I am proud to be Governor of the state of New York - a state which has led on so many important movements. Just think about it: the Women’s Rights movement started here in New York at Seneca Falls. The Workers’ Rights Movement started here in New York after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The Gay Rights Movement started here at Stonewall. The Environmental Movement started here on the Hudson River at Storm King. So many important movements started here. Our role is leadership, not just for the State of New York but on progressive issues to show the way for the rest of the nation.

EB White said, “New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village - the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up.”

If New York comes together if we join together and commit ourselves to tackle climate change, we can show the nation what is possible. Let’s lead by example. It’s the best way to lead. The only way to lead. It’s the New York way to lead. And today is a great step forward.

Now as you know I had eight great years in Washington D.C working in the Clinton and Gore administration and I had a great mentor and a great teacher when it came to the environment. Vice President Gore’s leadership on this issue was early, it was educated and it was prophetic. In 2007 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. A year earlier he won an Oscar for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” I gave him the nickname at the time “Nobel Oscar” – which he did not appreciate. It is just a cultural difference in humor, I think.

He has been a good friend to me on many levels – he was an extraordinary public servant when he served as Vice President during those eight years and he was an extraordinary Senator before that. If Al Gore had served as President of the United States I have no doubt that this nation would be in a better place for his service. When they write the history book of greats, Al Gore’s name is going to be right at the top of the list.

Ladies and gentleman, give a big New York welcome to Vice President Al Gore.

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