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Youth activists urge City of Buffalo to declare climate emergency: ‘Action must be taken now’

A proposed resolution submitted to the Buffalo Common Council by local youth activists that is scheduled to be debated Tuesday is asking the City of Buffalo to declare a climate emergency.

The draft resolution is part of a campaign led by the Western New York Youth Climate Council, a group founded in June 2019 after Swedish environmental youth activist Greta Thunberg founded the global “school strikes for climate” movement.

Daniel Pyskaty
Credit Courtesy of Daniel Pyskaty
Daniel Pyskaty, 17, is co-organizer of the Western New York Youth Climate Council.

“A climate emergency is a guide for further policy. It’s making and holding our leaders accountable,” said WNYYCC Co-organizer Daniel Pyskaty, a 17-year-old senior at Starpoint High School in Lockport. “If you declare an emergency, how can you say that you are not going to make a policy happen if we’re in the middle of a crisis?”

Pyskaty added that the resolution is intended as a guideline for Buffalo to adhere to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), the ambitious climate change legislation signed into law in New York State last year. The CLCPA outlines nation-leading climate targets, including an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and 70% renewable energy by 2030.

“Our city is not on track to compete statewide on that, so basically this resolution puts us on that track,” Pyskaty said.

Prior to submitting the draft resolution text to the Common Council on Sept. 15, WNYYCC gathered more than 3,500 physical and electronic petition signatures in support of a climate emergency declaration. Both the resolution and petition are scheduled to be discussed and debated Tuesday by the Common Council’s Community Development Committee.

Asked why he thinks young people are so motivated by the issue of climate change, Pyskaty said it’s because they don’t have a choice.

“I mean, it’s not something that we’re excited to do. It’s not like going and hanging out with your friends, but it’s something that we need to do as a society [and] as the youth, because the future is at stake here,” Pyskaty said. “It’s a crisis that needs to be confronted.”

Pyskaty also shared a message for adults about why climate change needs to be addressed in Buffalo and Western New York with a sense of urgency.

“In 50 years, when we’re hitting a crucial point in the climate crisis and they [adults] didn’t act now, we’re the ones who are going to be feeling the direct impact. So, action must be taken now.”

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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