Activists call on Governor Kathy Hochul to sign the NY TREES Act

154 Signatories from 28 Countries Call On Gov. Hochul to Protect Their Homes and Land By Signing the TREES Act

“As you have said yourself, New York is a magnet for people fleeing their homelands from the impacts of environmental destruction... To say it simply, Governor Hochul, our problems are your problems.”

NEW YORK – Ahead of World Rainforest Day (Saturday, June 22), 154 civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations and individuals from across 28 impacted countries and territories in tropical forest regions are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign New York’s historic Tropical Rainforest Economic & Environmental Sustainability Act, or the TREES Act. 

Hailing from Latin America, Asia and Africa, the signers are “devoted to principles of human rights, environmental restoration, social justice, peace and human dignity.” In a letter delivered to the governor’s office by the New York State Council of Churches, the signers are encouraging Gov. Hochul to act to prevent the destruction of their homes, lands, and livelihoods. 

The TREES Act will make sure New York government agencies don’t use taxpayer money on certain goods and products derived from tropical deforestation. It will also ensure that businesses providing goods or services in New York do not contribute to the associated abuses of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in tropical forested regions.

Just last year alone, more than 9 million acres of rainforest land was burned and slashed, creating industrial wasteland from once thriving ecosystems. The groups say New York has the opportunity to be a global leader in addressing this climate emergency and build solutions locally and globally: 

“The TREES Act is an acknowledgment that what is decided at the state capitol in Albany or in the ports of Manhattan makes ripples that affect us in Brazil, in West Africa, in Southeast Asia. Quite literally, Governor Hochul, our rainforests are your Brooklyn Bridge, your High Line, your hamburger, the creamer in your coffee, the chocolate in your ice cream. It is not an exaggeration to say that these come to you at great cost to our families and communities.”

The letter comes as a response to Governor Hochul’s speech at the Vatican Climate Summit last month, in which she referred to New York as “a magnet for immigrants,” and called for policies to address the root causes of climate migration in South America and West Africa.

“We need solutions that are global in their vision – but that build on actions taken at the local level everywhere in the world,” the letter states. “Through the TREES Act, you and other New Yorkers can take actions that bring us hope.”

Signatories to the letter include Alfred Lahai Brownell from Liberia, Marcel Gomes and Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva from Brazil, all Goldman Environmental prize winners; and Zenzi Suhadi, Director of the Indonesian Forum for Environment, the oldest and largest environmental rights organization in that country. Along with these well-known environmental leaders are Indigenous and social movement organizations from across the tropics including many from Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Uganda and other rainforest nations.

Sister Catherine C. Darcy of the Sisters of Mercy, who delivered the letter on behalf of the signers, said: “Last month Governor Kathy Hochul reiterated New York’s climate leadership at the Vatican. New York State can help save global forests by ensuring that the products the government buys do not contribute to the destruction of Earth’s most vital ecosystems.  In turn, tropical forests can save New Yorkers – and the rest of humanity by stabilizing our climate and serve as Earth’s immune system. Governor Hochul, we need you to sign the TREES Act without delay.” 

Last year a similar bill passed both houses with strong bipartisan majorities and overwhelming support from a wide range of public stakeholders. Governor Hochul vetoed it, citing concerns about its impact on businesses. The updated bill responds to Hochul’s concerns, giving state vendors a longer ramp-up, ensuring they have clear guidance about how to comply, and providing short-term exemptions. 

You can read the full letter here

Communications contacts:
Brittany Miller, [email protected]
TJ Helmstetter, [email protected]

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