New York City Mayor Unveils Plan To Reduce Carbon Emissions By 80 Percent

CREDIT: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio marches in the People's Climate March alongside French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.

By 2050, New York City will emit 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than it did in 2005, under a new plan announced Sunday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The plan will focus first on buildings, whose heating, cooling and power are responsible for almost three-quarters of New York City’s emissions. Over the next 10 years, the city will work to reduce the level of emissions coming from about 4,000 buildings by about 30 percent compared to 2005 levels. The plan is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by about 3.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The city’s plan acknowledges that achieving an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 won’t be easy — both for buildings and for the rest of the city’s emitters — but it outlines a few ways that the city plans to tackle its greenhouse gasses.

In all city-owned buildings, the city plans to install 100 megawatts of on-site renewable power and also work to improve the buildings’ energy efficiency. The city also plans to implement new, more-energy efficient standards for new construction, using principles of “zero net energy” and carbon neutral construction to inform the standards. For existing buildings, the city plans to set targets to help keep buildings on track in their emissions reduction goals. The plan is also singling out affordable housing as a sector with major potential for retrofitting, and highlighted the Knickerbocker Commons, an affordable housing building in the city that meets strict “Passive House” energy efficiency standards, as an example of what energy efficiency programs can achieve.

NYC emissions graph

CREDIT: New York City Office of the Mayor

“Achieving an 80 by 50 target will require nothing short of a dynamic transformation in the way energy is used in our buildings,” the plan states. “Overall, the City must cut energy use across all building sectors on average by at least 60 percent from 2005 levels and switch to renewable fuel sources to be on target for 80 by 50. The remaining reductions would be achieved by reducing our emissions from transportation and waste and cleaning our power supply.”

The plan highlights the economic benefits that improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions will bring to the city, including adding 3,500 construction-related
jobs and “hundreds of other industry jobs.” The city also plans to train more than 7,500 residents and building operators in the best ways to ensure buildings are energy efficient, training that the plan states will help open up career growth opportunities for some trainees. In addition, the report states, the plan is expected to save New Yorkers $1.4 billion each year.

At the beginning of his time as Mayor of New York, de Blasio’s commitment to climate change wasn’t clear: the mayor hadn’t made sustainability issues and climate change a major part of his campaign, and his administration was quiet on the issue for the first several months of his tenure. But the plan could be seen as a turning point for the administration: Donna DeCostanzo from the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times that the Mayor’s new plan “could be the most far-reaching one of its kind.”

De Blasio also marched in New York City’s People’s Climate March on Sunday, a protest that’s being called the largest climate march in history.