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A proven way to help curb carbon emissions

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Elenathewise

The United Nations Environment Program releases the annual Emissions Gap Report, which compares current greenhouse gas emissions with the reductions necessary to close the emissions gap to meet the Paris agreement goals.

The top line from this year’s report is that we are far off from making the necessary emissions cuts, and we need to do better.

Our leaders in Congress have an opportunity to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by continuing tax credits for clean-energy technologies. These credits also benefit consumers and create green jobs.

Clean-energy tax credits, including the solar investment tax credit and wind production tax credit, have succeeded in growing clean-energy production and jobs, and in cutting emissions.

They’re popular in New York and nationwide: A recent poll shows that voters support extending tax incentives for renewable-energy technologies like wind, solar and battery storage by 89% to 11%. Voters agree that these tax credits are an effective tool to combat climate change and improve the economy and public health.

Despite the UN’s urgent call for climate action and voters’ strong support for clean-energy policies, these tax credits will begin phasing out in 2020 unless Congress takes action in the next few weeks to extend them.

Allowing the tax credits for solar and wind to phase out would stall New York’s climate goals set earlier this year in Albany as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and delay our state’s transition to a clean energy economy. This would be a huge mistake. Thanks to the investment tax credit alone, solar deployment in the United States has grown by 10,000% and has created more than 240,000 jobs and $140 billion in private investment, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a nonprofit trade group. The wind industry also has seen significant growth thanks to the production tax credit, which has spurred more than $143 billion in private investment over the past 10 years and supports more than 114,000 good-paying jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade organization.

This is no time to take our foot off the pedal. Solar today accounts for less than 3% of total U.S. electricity. A five-year extension of the solar and wind tax credits would help the technologies double, triple or even quadruple their share by 2030. It would also help achieve the emissions-reduction goals of the Paris agreement and be a significant step toward meeting the state’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2040.

The House Ways and Means Committee recently released a clean-energy tax package that includes credits for solar, wind, energy storage and efficiency, and for electric vehicles. Most of these measures enjoy bipartisan support, including from members of New York’s congressional delegation. Now it is up to Congress to include these tax credits in the bill of a must-pass package in the next few weeks.

Our leaders in Congress must not allow clean-energy tax credits to lapse on their watch. The solar and wind tax credits, in addition to incentives for energy storage and efficiency and electric vehicles, must be a part of any budget deal Congress approves. They are proven solutions for clean energy and cutting emissions and must be prioritized in any end-of-year budget agreement.

Our leaders in Congress must make the right decision for our state and our planet and secure a big win for the climate — before it’s too late.

Julie Tighe is president of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

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