Albany – Today, the Tropical Rainforest Economic & Environmental Sustainability (TREES) Act passed the state Senate. Having passed the Assembly on Monday, the bill now heads to the governor’s desk. The bill, a previous version of which also passed both houses last year but was vetoed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December, made several changes to address concerns raised by the governor, while retaining the nation-leading impact of the original bill. The governor was recently named a co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan alliance of 24 state governors, and earlier today, she delivered remarks at the Vatican on “Climate Leadership in the Empire State.”

“While the governor has taken several steps to maintain New York’s climate leadership, vetoing this measure last year was a step in the wrong direction,” said Sen. Krueger. “This is not some esoteric issue for tree-huggers – the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are already affecting New Yorkers right here at home. That is why we have brought this bill back to the Legislature, which has once again overwhelmingly supported it. We have addressed the governor’s concerns as they were expressed to us, and we are confident that the TREES Act can not only be successfully implemented, but will enhance New York’s global role as an environmental leader, and boost New York businesses in the process. I hope that the governor – who this very day is speaking at the Vatican on the issue of climate leadership – will see this bill for what it is: an achievable, affordable, and necessary piece of critical climate legislation.”

Video of Sen. Krueger’s floor remarks can be viewed by clicking here.

“Today’s passage of the TREES Act in the Senate demonstrates another important step towards ensuring New York does not contribute to deforestation,” said Assm. Zebrowski. “Our state has the opportunity to lead the way towards ending this destructive process. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Krueger on this important legislation and I look forward to working with the governor to see it signed into law.”

Tropical forests harbor close to 50 percent of all species on Earth. Those species are now going extinct at a rate that is at least 100 to 1,000 times higher than historical levels, due to human activity. Taking into account carbon sequestration potential, stopping the loss of tropical forests, mangroves, and wetlands could provide over 20 percent of necessary climate mitigation by 2030.

Globally, an estimated 18,000,000 acres of forest, an area more than half the size of New York State, are lost every year to deforestation according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with over one-half of Earth’s tropical forests already gone. At the current pace, the entirety of Earth’s tropical rainforests will be degraded or destroyed within the next 100 years.

Loss of biodiversity resulting from forest degradation and deforestation, as well as human encroachment on formerly undisturbed ecosystems, also increases the risks of zoonotic disease pandemics such as COVID-19.

The TREES Act would help to ensure that New York State government procurement does not drive tropical deforestation or degradation by tightening an existing state ban on the use of tropical hardwoods for government projects, and creating a new statute requiring state contractors who deal in forest-risk commodities to certify that their products don’t drive deforestation. New York would be the first state in the nation to implement such a policy, following in the footsteps of the European Union, which recently enacted economy-wide deforestation regulations.

Many businesses throughout the United States and across the world are already increasingly engaged in efforts to ensure their supply chains are transparent, traceable, ethical, and environmentally sound, whether in reaction to consumer pressure or government regulation, or out of an understanding of corporate social responsibility. Businesses that achieve ethical and sustainable supply chains may also be able to increase their appeal with certain consumers, charge premium prices, or access previously untapped markets as a result of their efforts.

In order to remain competitive, New York businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses, must be able to take advantage of and stay ahead of this socially responsible and beneficial trend. The proposed Supply Chain Transparency Assistance Program, included in the TREES Act, to be administered by Empire State Development, would be available to New York-based small and medium-sized businesses, as well as MWBEs, to help them establish more ethical and sustainable supply chains, while ensuring they have the tools they need to compete in the national and global marketplace.

To address concerns expressed by the Governor’s office prior to her December veto of the bill that passed last session, several changes have been made in the TREES Act:

  • The MTA and the Staten Island Ferry have been granted five-year exemptions from the ban on the use of tropical hardwood, with the possibility of annual extensions of such exemption for an additional five years.
  • Language has been added to clarify that state contractors must complete concrete and specific due diligence steps established by the Office of General Services prior to certifying that products furnished to the state are deforestation-free.
  • A broad exemption from the bill’s certification provisions has been added in a situation where a state agency or authority fails to receive any offers in response to a solicitation for products covered by the bill. If such exemption is not used by an agency or authority for three consecutive years, that agency or authority will lose the ability to use the exemption going forward.
  • A provision previously requiring the creation of a stakeholder advisory group has been amended to only require four meetings with relevant stakeholders by OGS prior to issuing regulations.
  • The effective date of the certification provisions has been pushed back to 2027, from 2025 in the previous version of the bill.
Alfred Lahai Gbabai Brownell Sr, Founder, Green Advocates International, Lead Campaigner, African Climate Platform, and 2019 Goldman Prize Winner, said:
“On behalf of the Indigenous peoples of the Upper Guinea Forests from all over West Africa and beyond, we applaud the courageous work of Lawmakers in the New York Assembly and Senate to pass the New York TREES Act. This historic act sends a powerful message that New York State will not let its tax dollars destroy tropical forests and allow violence and retaliation against earth defenders, climate activists, and Indigenous peoples around the world. The New York TREES Act is exactly what we need to stop this violence and start healing our planet. This act demonstrates New York’s leadership amid a triple crisis of climate, biodiversity, and attacks on Earth Defenders and Indigenous peoples. We urge Governor Hochul, Chair of the United States Climate Alliance, to follow through on her promise to Pope Francis and faith, politics, and science leaders to sign the New York TREES Act right away. This act would be a courageous step towards building healthy, safe communities and protecting our planet for generations to come”

Bob Rossi, Executive Director, New York Sustainable Business Council, said:
“We applaud the New York Assembly and Senate for passing the TREES Act without delay. This nation-leading climate bill stands to strengthen New York’s economy. By encouraging procurement from New York businesses, it supports these economic anchors and creates jobs across the state while keeping procurement dollars circulating through—rather than leaving—our state economy. This is a critical step towards localizing our economy and building resilience against international supply chain disruptions. We now look to Governor Hochul to sign the TREES Act and restore New York State as a climate leader.”

Barry Schumacher, U.S. Public Policy Lead, Tony’s Chocolonely:
“Tony’s Chocolonely is an international business with its U.S. operations headquartered in New York. We have had in place a robust supply chain due diligence system of the type envisioned by the newly passed TREES Act for many years. During the past decade, our corporate revenues have gone from a few million dollars per year to over $163 million last year. At the same time, our exports to the U.S. have soared to where one of every six chocolate bars imported into New York is a Tony’s bar. This shows that creating and implementing an anti-deforestation due diligence system is no bar to commercial success and need not be a barrier to procurement success either. We applaud the legislature for acting and urge the governor to sign the bill as expeditiously as possible.”

Vanessa Fajans-Turner, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates NY, said:
“We are thrilled to see the TREES Act pass the New York State Legislature, a significant step forward in our fight against climate change and deforestation. I want to extend our deepest gratitude to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Krueger, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski for their unwavering leadership and commitment to this critical issue. Their hard work has been crucial in moving this bill forward, a bill that will not increase costs for New York families while making a significant impact on our environment. This legislation is a clear demonstration of how we can protect our planet and support our communities without financial burden on our families.”

Marcus Sibley, NY Metro Director of Conservation Partnerships, National Wildlife Federation, said:
“The New York Assembly and Senate have once again acted to protect New Yorkers and our precious environment and wildlife. We applaud our terrific sponsors, Senator Krueger and Assemblyperson Zebrowski, legislative leadership, and the Assembly and Senate for overwhelmingly passing the TREES Act. The legislation establishes a clear and workable procurement policy to ensure that state contractors, paid with the hard-earned tax dollars of New Yorkers, are not causing tropical deforestation and adding to our climate crisis. The TREES Act is long overdue, and we are calling on Governor Hochul to sign the legislation and further solidify her standing internationally as a climate leader.”Kerry Cesareo, Senior Vice President for Forests, World Wildlife Fund, said:
“Today’s passage through the Legislature is a major milestone for the TREES Act, demonstrating broad and bipartisan support in New York for conserving tropical forests. Passing the TREES Act makes clear New York is a leader among governments in action to promote healthy tropical forests, halt climate change, and foster responsible business practices. Being the first state in the nation to implement such a policy would put New York at the forefront of responsible investments in supply chain transparency and sustainability and ensuring public dollars do not drive tropical forest loss.”

Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Manager with Friends of the Earth, said:
“Global forests are the planet’s best defense against further catastrophe, which is why passage of the TREES Act is so critical. This commonsense legislation will mitigate climate risk while empowering New York businesses and standing up for the rights of frontline communities, all at no cost to consumers — a true win-win-win. Tremendous thanks to Senator Krueger, Assemblymember Zebrowski, leadership in both chambers, and the bill’s many co-sponsors. The overwhelming support from legislators should clearly demonstrate to Governor Hochul that it’s time to sign this bill.”

Jennifer Skene, Global Forest Policy Manager, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), said:
“New York’s legislature has positioned the state at the forefront of a global shift toward eliminating deforestation and forest degradation from supply chains. The passage of the TREES Act sends a strong signal that forest protection isn’t just environmentally, but also economically, essential, and provides a new model for aligning markets with the protection of forests around the world.”

Tim Keating, Director of Rainforest Relief, said:
“We are pleased to see the TREES Act passing the NY Legislature, and we thank Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Ken Zebrowski for moving it forward. It’s long past time for people, governments and businesses to examine and act on their purchasing and resale of products and materials the extraction and production of which are driving the destruction of tropical forests. Not only are tropical hardwoods, metals, petroleum and numerous agricultural products responsible for large-scale greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 3 emissions), but combined, they comprise the largest cause of the loss of Earth’s biodiversity. As manager of the world’s 28th largest government spender, we call on Governor Hochul to sign the TREES Act quickly, to address the embodied carbon and ‘embodied extinction’ in New York’s purchasing.”

Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency U.S., said:
“We applaud New York legislators for passing the TREES Act, a historic bill that would demonstrate the state’s leadership in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, and urge Governor Hochul to swiftly sign the bill into law. The TREES Act would send a powerful signal that New York’s tax dollars will not contribute to the destruction of tropical rainforests. The bill would reward American companies who operate responsibly while helping local businesses meet emerging market requirements for traceable and deforestation-free supply chains.”

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