New York City aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 30 percent and divert 75 percent of its solid waste from landfills, under an updated sustainability strategy announced last week.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the update to the four-year-old PlaNYC strategy, which he said has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels and is close to achieving almost two-thirds of its 2009 milestones.
The update includes 132 initiatives and more than 400 specific milestones to achieve by December 31, 2013. Overarching goals include reducing energy consumption and making New York’s air quality the cleanest of any big U.S. city. More specific aims include reducing the city’s fleet by at least five percent, re-using 60 percent of anaerobic digester gas produced in the city’s wastewater system (by 2017), installing small-scale photovoltaic and solar thermal projects at city-owned sites, requiring use of recycled content in building materials and requiring recycling of building materials.
The city will also assess opportunities to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
Also last week, the city adopted a rule to phase out the use of #6 and #4 heating oil, two heavy fuels, in favour of natural gas and low-sulfur #2 oil. The phase-out will be accomplished through a combination of incentives, streamlined permitting and education, the mayor said, with full phase-out of #6 by 2015 and #4 by 2030.
The city will work with Con Edison and National Grid to accelerate upgrades to the natural gas distribution system in underserved neighborhoods, and to aggregate buildings that are ready to convert to natural gas. A Clean Heat information campaign, with the Environmental Defense Fund, will seek to educate building owners and tenants about public health impacts, potential costs and savings, and steps to convert to cleaner fuels.
The mayor’s office said that because of the continued use of #6 and #4 oil, also known as residual oil, just one percent of New York City’s buildings produce more soot than all the city’s cars and trucks. Achieving a ten percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) concentrations could prevent more than 300 premature deaths, 200 hospital admissions and 600 emergency department visits each year, the mayor’s office said.