One of the busiest transportation systems in the United States plans to join the Paris agreement, deepening a schism between the federal government and U.S. cities and states on climate issues.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) announced on Tuesday that the port district plans to sign on to the Paris agreement, following a board of commissioners meeting.
“The Port Authority has long acknowledged the benefits of prioritizing responsible stewardship of its assets, communities, and the natural resources that surround them,” read a public resolution, scheduled for approval on Thursday.
The resolution went on to note that, “In recent years, scientists have become increasingly concerned about unchecked global [greenhouse gas] levels and the risk they pose to our planet, region, and critical infrastructure.”
Signed by almost 200 countries, the Paris agreement seeks to keep global warming well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to limit any increase to 1.5 °C. The pact emphasizes mitigation and adaptation, with the ultimate goal of substantially reducing the impacts of climate change.
PANYNJ, a nearly 100-year-old port district, oversees much of the regional transportation infrastructure within its 1,500-square-mile area of jurisdiction. That includes airports, bridges, tunnels, and the operation of the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, one of the leading shipping ports in the United States. Along with the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system, the port district oversees six airports, including New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports.
The public resolution lays out steps to mitigate the ways in which the hubs within PANYNJ’s jurisdiction contribute to global warming, including cutting emissions 35 percent below 2006 pollution levels by 2025, which PANYNJ labeled as an “interim” target. The resolution also affirmed a long-term goal of 80 percent reduction of emissions overall by 2050, along with a pledge to reassess reduction targets and strategies on a five-year basis in order to “keep pace with the state of climate science and global best practices.”
Moreover, the resolution laid out recommended initiatives to help PANYNJ meet its targets, including implementing cost-neutral energy conservation projects, support for offshore wind energy development in New York and New Jersey, a slow conversion to electric vehicles, and the pursuit of cost-effective solar and fuel cell projects.
Prior to the meeting, Executive Director Rick Cotton encouraged the efforts, noting that states have increasingly stepped up to fill the void left by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would exit the Paris agreement.
“The states of New York and New Jersey have taken a leadership role in stepping up to embrace the Paris accord, given the fact that the United States has withdrawn,” Cotton said. “The port authority ought to join with the two states in embracing the Paris Accord and doing what we can do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
A large coalition of U.S. cities and states have committed to the Paris agreement in light of the Trump administration’s decision, but the PANYNJ decision could prove uniquely crucial. The wider New York City metro area suffers from poor air quality and pollution, with severe ramifications for human health and the environment. PANYNJ could also serve as a model for other major transportation authorities looking to adopt similar measures.
PANYNJ’s move comes only a few weeks after a dire U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that the world has a little over a decade left before crossing a dangerous global warming threshold. The Trump administration has largely tried to distance itself from the report.