New York can reduce emissions and create jobs with industrial decarbonization

New York continues to be a leader in climate protection. Gov. Kathy Hochul made important proposals to reduce emissions in her State of the State address. Her address followed shortly after December’s long-awaited approval of a final “scoping plan” that charts a path to implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act — the landmark climate and justice legislation enacted in 2019. As part of developing a credible path to implement the state’s ambitious climate commitments, policymakers now have the opportunity to secure billions in new federal incentives, expand the state’s clean industrial economy, and protect and create good jobs through investments in industrial decarbonization .

To make real progress in the fight against climate change, it is crucial that New York takes action to reduce industrial emissions. Heavy industry – specifically the manufacture of metals such as steel and aluminum, cement, chemicals, as well as a small number of additional emission-intensive industrial subsectors – is responsible for 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statewide and 9 percent of emissions from New York State. Under the current clean energy pathways, largely focused on decarbonizing energy, transportation and buildings, industry will become the main source of US greenhouse gases within the decade. Purchasing these goods from countries with less stringent climate regulations can result in significant imports of embodied carbon – emissions related to the manufacture of materials that may or may not show up as part of the state’s total emissions.

At the same time, industrial materials such as steel, aluminum and cement are vital to economic activity, including the transition to renewable energy and clean transportation. Steel is used in wind turbines, aluminum in transmission cables and electric vehicles, and concrete (whose main binding ingredient is cement) is the second most used material on earth after water.

New York has a proud tradition of industrial manufacturing. It is a former steel state and a current producer of cement at Holcim’s Ravena plant and Heidelberg’s plant near Glens Falls, and aluminum at Alcoa’s Massena plant. In fact, the Alcoa facility is one of the few remaining primary aluminum smelters in the United States and the only operating smelter in the United States that uses hydroelectric power.

Outside of Manhattan, New York manufacturing jobs earn more, on average, than other non-manufacturing private sector jobs: in 32 boroughs, manufacturing jobs earned on average at least $20,000 more than the average non-manufacturing private sector job . As the third largest economy in the country, New York is also a major buyer of industrial materials.

But this critical sector has atrophied in the state; Between 2001 and 2019, New York’s manufacturing employment fell nearly 37 percent, a significantly larger decline than the national average. This trend continues: Just last year, Lehigh Hanson announced that it would close its cement plant near Glens Falls, which had been in operation since 1893 – a decision that will cost the state 85 jobs.

There is an enormous need for action, but also an enormous opportunity. New funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act have the potential to be game changers for the industrial sector, including in states like New York. These bills include billions of dollars in incentives and tax credits to facilitate the deployment of emission-reduction technologies in industrial plants, as well as incentives to promote the Buy Clean procurement policy, which prioritizes government purchases of low-emission building materials for infrastructure projects.

These new investments in the industrial sector can create significant economic benefits. Industrial investment and buy-clean provisions in the Anti-Inflation Act alone have the potential to create nearly 180,000 new jobs nationwide. At the same time, demand for low-carbon materials is growing as customers, manufacturers and governments push for greater sustainability. New York has an opportunity to revitalize its industrial base by attracting this investment.

As New York struggles to deliver on the governor’s priorities and implement the master plan, the state is uniquely positioned to mobilize massive federal investment in green industrial manufacturing.

To make this a reality, policymakers must develop a comprehensive plan for green industrial manufacturing as part of the state’s larger climate agenda. As stated in the scoping plan, New York should implement a policy to invest in the production of clean materials such as steel, aluminum and cement by attracting federal incentives now on the table and additional state incentives for clean production. The state should also stimulate demand for the decarbonized products from these industrial plants, leveraging its vast purchasing power and potentially bringing in large corporate buyers as well.

This plan must at least match the ambitions of new federal programs in BIL and the Inflation Reduction Act, such as the Hydrogen Hub program and the Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment program. These programs were created to accelerate efforts to commercialize transformative technologies to drastically reduce industrial emissions. With these government incentives and investments, it is now possible to fund unique retrofits of existing industrial plants or to build greenfield plants that use new technologies to produce zero-emission industrial materials, such as: B. the direct reduction of iron for steel production green hydrogen and the use of inert anodes for aluminum production.

We have models for high-impact New York State policies to complement federal incentives. The Green CHIPS program built on state support for semiconductor manufacturing to facilitate advanced green manufacturing in the states. It has already been a notable success and could become a model for green materials manufacturing in the state.

Governments can also take action to increase demand for low-emission materials. As a first step, New York should build on the Low Embodied Carbon Concrete Leadership Act to set guidelines for government agencies procuring additional low-carbon materials, including steel and aluminum. The state should also use incentives for new building development to create additional private sector demand for low-carbon materials, possibly as part of Governor Hochul’s ambitious program to build 800,000 new homes by 2030.

With its strong climate commitment coinciding with the launch of new and significant federal funding, New York has a unique opportunity to build comprehensive green industrial manufacturing policies that help the climate while creating jobs. It should seize the opportunity.