Last week, the day after the “People’s Climate March” and right before the United Nations’ Climate Summit, New York City’s Mayor de Blasio announced that the City is committing to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by the year 2050. This bold initiative, strongly supported by the City Council and a diverse network of community-based organizations, starts with the One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City’s Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future plan. A sweeping ten-year plan aimed at retrofitting New York’s public and private buildings in order to dramatically reduce the city’s contributions to climate change, while spurring major cost savings and creating thousands of new jobs for those who need them most.
This makes New York the largest US city to commit to the 80 percent reduction by 2050, in line with the IPCC’s recommended reduction target for climate stabilization, with currently approximately three quarters of the city’s greenhouse gas output stemming from energy expended to heat, cool and power its buildings. In particular, New York is poised to make direct investments to increase the efficiency of every single city-owned building, including schools and public housing, with any significant energy use which amounts to approximately 3,000 buildings. They will be retrofitted by or before the year 2025, with interim goals along the way.
Furthermore, New York City will spur private building owners to invest in building efficiency upgrades, with ambitious interim targets and incentives to catalyze voluntary reductions, while implementing mandates that trigger if such interim reduction targets are not met. This should lead to retrofits of tens of thousands of privately owned buildings. The plan is herewith not so much focused on the city’s large real estate owners and management companies, who already “know what this is about” according to Bill Goldstein, a senior adviser to Mayor de Blasio, but rather on the numerous smaller building owners who need to be encouraged to embark on the retrofit journey.
In addition to the plan leading to considerable carbon emission reductions in the order of 3.4 million metric tons a year by 2025, the resulting upgrades should help protect many lower-income citizens from rising utility bills and stimulate demand for jobs in the construction and energy services sectors. “One City: Built to Last” therewith explicitly links building efficiency improvements to other key city goals of reducing social inequality and improving the local economy.
The plan has in short been informed by five key guiding strategies in order to achieve the greatest benefits from the efforts that will be put in, comprising: