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Activists Rally, Meet Cyclists Headed to Albany to Address Climate Change

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The group of cyclists heading from Manhattan to Albany this week to highlight the efforts of environmental groups that want state officials to enact a series of bills to address climate change They stopped at Peekskills Riverfront Green on Sunday

Climate activists greeted bicyclists at Peekskill’s Riverfront Green Sunday afternoon who are making a week-long trek from New York City to Albany to convince lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul to pass legislation that tackles climate change.

The cyclists left Battery Park in lower Manhattan on Saturday and are stopping each day in communities in what will be a circuitous 250-mile route to rally officials and residents to press for the approval of about a dozen bills. The legislative package would provide meaningful progress in the fight against climate change, according to members of Climate Can’t Wait, a coalition of 38 environmental organizations across New York.

“We know that we have the tools available to us to begin to roll back some of the effects of climate change, and we have to do it in the next couple of years and it requires large-scale government investment,” said Erin Ashoka of Beacon, who attended the windblown Peekskill rally with the Hudson River in the background while waiting for her husband, Veekas, who was one of the cyclists.

“It’s not something that is individuals,” she added. “We can make individual choices and not make the type of impact and at the scale that we need to do to save our future.”

While only a handful of cyclists will be making the entire journey, they are being joined by other activists for portions of each day’s riding schedule. They plan to meet up with a large contingent of environmental groups in downtown Albany on Friday, which is Earth Day, and march to the state Capitol Building for an 11 a.m. rally.

Earlier in the weekend there were rallies in Manhattan and Yonkers. Before the cyclists reach Albany, there will also be events in Beacon, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, New Paltz and Hudson.

Marilyn Vasta, from the People’s Climate Movement of New York City who will be following the bikers, said while all the legislation is important, funding the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) is perhaps the most critical piece. The $15 billion initiative would kickstart the transition to a full renewable energy economy, including enforcing timelines for greenhouse gas reductions, ending subsidies to fossil fuel companies and investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and ensuring that 40 percent of the funds are invested in disadvantaged communities, she said.

“What we need to do now is to make sure the state comes up with funding for all of these bills,” Vasta said.

Other key measures that have been proposed as part of the package are the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would make large-scale investments such as offshore wind, electric buses and public housing energy upgrades; the New York Build Public Renewables Act to enable the New York Power Authority to build affordable renewable energy to meet the state’s climate targets; and the Green New Deal for New York Act, which would tax the wealthy to raise more than $10 billion a year to help pay for energy efficiency programs and electric vehicles.

Marilyn Elie of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition said robust investment in wind and solar power is the best way to gradually transition to 100 percent renewable energy. While there are skeptics, wind and solar can be stored and put into the grid when needed, Elie said.

She also warned the public that the oil and gas industry is exploiting the war in Ukraine because of disruptions in supplies from Russia.

“We need electricity that is cheap, we need electricity that we can put up fast and we need electricity that is clean and that is the sun and the wind, and that’s what we need to be doing right now,” Elie said.

One of the bikers on the 250-mile trip to Albany, Andrew Wells, an environmental science teacher at NEST+m school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, said the comprehensive package of bills is encouraging but the public can’t take for granted they will be enacted.

“I really think we need to act in a way that also demonstrates that we can’t wait on the government to do things, we have to show up and rally and show them what we care about,” Wells said.

Tom Hellmann, of Frankfort, Ky., who was at the rally, said the stakes are high for future generations.

“Hopefully, if we’re going to have grandchildren one day the world’s got to exist 100 years from now,” he said. “So, yeah, it’s a cold, windy day right now, but we want a bright future, a warm future and not a hot scalding future for my grandchildren.”

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