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NYC Commits to Reduce Emissions 80% by 2050

In 2012, then-NYC Mayor Bloomberg and his team at the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability created a video about the quantity of CO2 emissions that are released into the atmosphere. | Image credit: Blisstree

In the spirit of this week, which has seen global leaders convening in New York City for the UN Climate Summit and more than 400,000 citizens filling the City’s streets for the People’s Climate March, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio has committed to reducing the City’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by a whopping 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels with plans to renovate its public and private buildings.

Roughly 75 percent of the city’s energy consumption is a result of heating, cooling and operations, meaning substantial reductions can be made by targeting the efficiency of the city’s buildings. All municipal buildings that consume a significant amount of energy (amounting to about 3,000 constructions) will be involved in a new 10-year plan to improve their efficiency by 2025. NYC has plans to incentivize emissions reduction for private landlords, with mandates to follow.

City buildings will attempt to reduce their energy consumption through better lighting and boiler systems, as well as the promotion of solar array installations. All buildings with an area greater than 25,000 square feet (2,320 square meters) will be required to measure and disclose its energy consumption. De Blasio has backed both financial and regulatory programmes to enforce and incentivise the changes needed to meet the ambitious goal.

De Blasio stated that the pledge, which was announced on Sunday, only days before the launch of the UN Climate Summit, makes New York the largest city to commit to an “80-by-50” goal, and hopes that the announcement will encourage others to follow its lead.

“Climate change is an existential threat to New Yorkers and our planet,” de Blasio told Bloomberg. “Acting now is nothing short of a moral imperative.”

New York, which based a large proportion of its energy provision and economic growth on its proximity to the coast, is now particularly vulnerable to the risks of climate change, including rising sea levels and increased threat of more intense weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, which hit previously untouched parts of the city including Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island in 2012. Climate-related weather disasters were estimated to have cost U.S. taxpayers more than US$100 billion that year.

“Global climate change is the challenge of our generation,” de Blasio said. “New Yorkers are facing the risks of rising sea levels, increased temperatures and heat waves, and increasing frequency of intense storms. The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 provided tragic evidence of these risks. Almost two years later, we are still recovering.

“Globally, rising sea levels will flood coastlines, droughts will disrupt livelihoods, and storms and other extreme weather will threaten lives and economic development. We are faced with an existential threat, and inaction is not an option.”

In December, as part of the City’s original, shorter-term PlaNYC goal of reducing its GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2017, Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway announced a pilot program that will convert the thousands of pounds of food waste previously shipped to out-of-state landfills into biogas, which will heat up to 5,200 homes throughout the city and help curb roughly 90,000 metric tons of the state’s annual GHG emissions.


Hannah Ritchie is a graduate in Environmental Geoscience from the University of Edinburgh. She is now working towards an MSc in Carbon Management, with an interest developing a fair and equal model for working towards a sustainable future across the… [Read more about Hannah Ritchie]