Legislative package promotes energy efficiency and carbon footprint reductions in advance of UN Climate Summit
NEW YORK– Today, the New York City Council unveiled landmark legislation along with a far-sighted policy platform to strengthen New York City’s commitment to a greener, more sustainable and more environmentally-friendly future. In advance of the UN Climate Summit, this comprehensive legislative package will address key areas in the fight against global climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and encouraging low-carbon transportation. Global climate change is a clear threat to the planet: according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Science, a global temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius is not “manageable.” To keep temperature increases below this threshold, the international community must undertake a coordinated effort to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Council will be working with the Mayor and the Administration on implementing these policies.
The Council’s agenda includes:
• Setting a bold new target of reducing our citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050
• Connecting the unemployed to green jobs
• Reducing the carbon footprint of municipal operations
• Making buildings more energy efficient
• Promoting low-carbon transportation
• Planning for a more equitable, greener city
• Passing legislation to make New York City’s air even cleaner
“This landmark legislative package and policy platform reaffirms our commitment to creating a sustainable future for New York City,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “When New York speaks the world listens, and with these initiatives we will continue to serve as a model for cities everywhere in the fight against climate change. These pieces of legislation will make our city greener, more sustainable and more environmentally friendly and that is something that will benefit all New Yorkers.”
New York City has been a pioneer in the effort to combat climate change. Over the past few years, the City Council passed over 100 pieces of legislation reducing the City’s carbon emissions, improving our air and water quality, making the City more resilient in the face of climate change, and ensuring there is a living plan in place to achieve our sustainability goals.
The United Nations Climate Summit on September 23 is an opportunity for world leaders to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in advance of a hoped-for international agreement on climate change in 2015.
“Climate change continues to pose a unique set of challenges to the physical, economic and social landscape of our city,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “This environmental platform is a part of the Council’s continued dedication to facing and addressing the full spectrum of New York City’s environmental concerns. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for her leadership and look forward to continued work with my colleagues and advocates as we lead the way towards a greener and more sustainable future.”
“Our planet is faced with 21st Century environmental issues that require 21st Century solutions,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides. “The Council is taking a bold stand in providing sustainable solutions so that we remain resilient in the face of climate change. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, as well as Chair of the Council Environmental Protection Committee Donovan Richards, for their leadership and vision to take on these challenges with strong action. INT. 378 provides our city with a mandate to hasten our response to the climate change in a meaningful way. This new paradigm will encourage innovation, technological progress, and legislation to continue our movement towards a more sustainable and resilient city. The milestones and benchmarks involved in reducing our city’s emissions by 80% by 2050 will not only boldly seek to meet the challenges of climate change but reduce asthma, provide cleaner air, improve overall health for many New Yorkers and create new green jobs.”
“As Chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, I am excited about the Council’s Sustainability agenda and the committee’s role in it,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “I intend to focus on issues that support a more equitable and sustainable city, including promoting environmental justice, and improving our diversion rate by increasing recycling and organics collection citywide, including in NYCHA.”
“As Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, I am proud to be a part of such a vast, far-sighted policy platform to reduce our city’s carbon footprint,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Deputy Leader. “As the United Nations Climate Summit meets this weekend in New York City, it is my hope that other cities throughout the world look upon this legislation and implement environmentally friendly policies of their own. Climate change can be combated, but will require aggressive efforts around the world to ensure a sustainable future for all.”
“A recent report cautioned that the planet is only 20 years away from catastrophe unless we take much more serious steps to fight climate change,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Climate change is a global emergency, and we all need to do our part.”
“If we don’t want to tell our kids and grandkids that we utterly failed them — when the evidence was clear — then we must take bold action now,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “On the eve of the People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit, the New York City Council is helping to lead the way. By setting an ambitious goal, retrofitting our buildings to save energy, committing to dramatically reduce NYC’s own use of fossil fuels, cleaning up our air, and promoting mass transit, we’ll be able to approach future generations with a clear conscience and a more sustainable planet.”
“We stand at the precipice of a climate disaster that calls for bold action at every level of government,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing. “The Council’s ambitious climate agenda encapsulates a far-reaching vision for good jobs and healthy communities and requires committed stewardship of our most precious assets, including our public housing stock.”
“Passage of this package of “green” legislation will make the air cleaner for current and future generations of New Yorkers; while at the same time, improving public transportation, conserving energy and creating meaningful employment,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.
“One common thread that ties all humans together is our responsibility to protect Mother Earth,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. I commend Speaker Mark-Viverito for her leadership in bringing New York City another step forward towards a more sustainable and environmentally equitable future.”
“By making an 80 percent reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 an official goal, New York City moves to the head of the pack on climate change mitigation,” said Russell Unger, Executive Director of Urban Green Council. “We applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito and the Council for setting a smart idea on a path to reality, and look forward to working with the Speaker, Council, and leaders from labor and real estate to develop the roadmap that gets us there.”
“New York City Environmental Justice Alliance applauds the City Council for its consistent leadership addressing the ravages of climate change, their visionary commitment to reducing the city’s carbon footprint, coupled with their unwavering support to increase vulnerable communities’ resiliency and adaptation needs,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. “This set of actions is the gold standard for large cities worldwide.”
“We applaud the Speaker and Council’s leadership on the eve of the Peoples Climate March,” said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN. “This action will address the climate crisis and the inequality crisis by reducing our city’s carbon footprint while creating good local jobs.”
“Coming on the backdrop of a historic climate march and global discussions around climate change, the City Council is proving once again that the New York City is a model for how cities can take action,” said New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn.” We applaud Speaker Mark-Vivierito and the City Council for a bold environmental agenda that will make New Yorkers healthier, our communities more vibrant and our city stronger. We look forward to working with the Speaker and the rest of Council for a greener, greater city for all.”
Reduce City’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 80 percent
Reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 (Int. 378-2014 by CM Constantinides)
Thanks to legislation passed by the Council in 2008 and a sustained commitment from New Yorkers in and out of government, the City is on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030. Recent scientific consensus indicates that keeping the effects of climate change in a manageable range requires keeping average planetary temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Numerous scientific and government bodies have said that to meet this target, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 and eliminate them almost entirely by the end of the century.
To meet this imperative, the Council will hear and pass Int. 378 by Council Member Constantinides, which will commit the City to reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050 from a 2005 baseline. This is in line with goals set by both the State of New York and President Obama. By establishing the strategies necessary for meeting this goal through the legislative and PlaNYC processes, New York City will continue to lead cities across the world in the fight to prevent climate change
Reduce the Footprint of Municipal Operations
Reduce the City’s purchases of fossil fuels
The City’s operations have a large carbon footprint — from fossil fuel burned in municipal vehicles and vessels, to emissions generated from electricity used by the City, to the vast amount of energy needed to heat and cool public buildings. These operations account for 7 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in New York City. The City is two-thirds of the way to its goal of 30 percent emissions reductions by 2017, but we can set a more ambitious long-term goal for municipal operations. Because reducing fossil fuel consumption would have one of the highest impacts on the City’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of the most direct steps the City can take to meet our overall goal of reducing emissions citywide 80 percent by 2050, the Council will pursue legislation setting targets to reduce municipal fossil fuel purchases.
Require new and renovated City buildings to use less energy; Build zero-carbon City buildings
In order to meet these ambitious emissions reduction goals, the City can and should be far more aggressive in reducing greenhouse gases from new and renovated municipal buildings. The City’s Green Buildings Law (Local Law 86 of 2005) currently requires the use of green building standards for projects funded substantially by City capital dollars. The Council will update this law by raising the standards for the City’s capital investments, requiring greater energy efficiency.
The Council will also pass legislation to require the City to build “zero carbon” or “net zero energy” buildings. New York must continue to be a leader in advanced building technology. By proving that ambitious green building goals are possible, even in a dense environment, the City will set an example for both the private sector here and in other cities around the globe.
Promote Innovative Solutions to Sustainability in Public Housing
The New York City Housing Authority represents an enormous opportunity for reducing New York City’s carbon footprint, with more than 400,000 residents spread throughout 2,563 buildings. Although NYCHA has established green programs in the recent past, it has yet to make a sustained commitment in its capital budget and long-term planning.
A commitment to sustainability means placing energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste reduction, and tenant engagement at the heart of all of NYCHA’s activities. Specifically, we should:
• Invest in more efficient and greener buildings by putting more efficient facades on buildings, identifying ways to reduce energy use, and upgrading heating and electrical systems in NYCHA developments.
• Reduce waste by making a real commitment to recycling at NYCHA facilities and piloting organic and textile collections that are happening in other large multifamily buildings throughout the City.
• Engage residents through grassroots education when implementing these initiatives, and at the same time create employment opportunities for residents and the surrounding community.
Make Buildings Energy Efficient Citywide
Buildings are responsible for 75 percent of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. Large buildings over 50,000 square feet are responsible for 45 percent of emissions despite making up just 2 percent of the City’s total building stock. Many of these emissions come from inefficient building operation and could be reduced at no cost to building owners or tenants.
The Council enacted the landmark Greater, Greener Buildings Plan (Local Laws 84, 85, 87 and 88) in 2009. These laws require owners of buildings over 50,000 sq. ft. to annually benchmark their energy use and water use, (Local Law 84) and to audit their energy use and “retrocommission” their buildings once per decade (Local Law 87). The following proposals will help extend the effect of these laws and help smaller buildings not covered by the law to lower their energy use.
Require operators of larger buildings to receive energy efficiency training (Int. 13-2014 by Council Member Koslowitz)
To ensure large buildings citywide have good energy conservation practices in place, the Council will pass Int. 13 by Council Member Koslowitz, which will require operators of key systems in large buildings to complete a training course in the energy efficient operation of those systems. This alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide by close to 3 percent.
Create a grassroots outreach program to green smaller buildings
While they are not covered by the Greater, Greener Buildings Plan, smaller residential buildings in particular are an easy target for energy efficient retrofits. The Pratt Center estimates that retrofitting just half of the City’s 650,000 small homes could save $255 million per year in energy costs and could create 1,500 jobs.
The solution is for the City to create a straightforward set of low-cost, standardized retrofit packages that are proven to save energy in specific types and ages of buildings. To keep costs down and to ensure wide participation in the program, grassroots outreach teams will engage building owners and residents to enroll a number of nearby buildings in joint projects executed by a single retrofit contractor. This initiative is modeled on programs piloted by the Pratt Center for Community Development and funded in part by the City Council.
Connect the Unemployed to Green Jobs
The City should leverage its sustainability efforts to help put unemployed New Yorkers back to work and address inequality. Energy efficiency projects, creating public spaces, and other City programs have job-creating potential that we should harness in order to provide additional economic opportunities for disadvantaged residents.
Create the New York City Green Jobs Corps
The New York City Green Corps would be a six-month to one-year transitional jobs program that would train members in performing energy audits, implementing retrofits, maintaining green infrastructure and public plazas, and leading neighborhood greening, beautification, and environmental education projects. The program would be based on the successful models of the Parks Opportunity Program and the Green City Force Clean Energy Corps. This program could be funded by redirecting TANF and other State and Federal funds away from retraining and work skills programs that are not currently performing, among other sources of funding.
Prepare New York City’s Workforce for New, Green Jobs
The City’s efforts in combatting global climate change have created demand for green jobs through laws that require benchmarking, auditing, and certification for certain environmental work. Demand for new workers will continue to increase as the City works toward reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, requires building operators to be trained in energy efficiency, and creates a technical assistance program for energy efficiency work in buildings. In order to ensure that the City’s workforce benefits from these jobs, the Council will work to recruit economically-disadvantaged New Yorkers into commonly-accepted green job certification programs, as well as to ensure there are enough of these programs to meet the need. The Council will also pass legislation to require the City to do an assessment of job creation and training needs that flow from sustainability legislation and municipal programs.
Promote Low-Carbon Transportation
In order to reduce our greenhouse gas impacts, we must invest in low-carbon transportation — public transit, bicycle infrastructure, greening the City vehicle fleet – and other policies that encourage sustainable transportation. The following proposals help transit commuters and encourage ridership, reduce the impact of the City fleet through car sharing, and help lay the framework for an expansion of a citywide Bus Rapid Transit network.
Require employers to offer pre-tax transit benefits (Int. 295-2014 by Council Member Garodnick)
The Council will pass Int. 295, sponsored by Council Member Garodnick, to require that entities with twenty or more full-time employees offer pre-tax commuter transit benefits to their workers. Currently, only a third of New York City workers use this program.
Passing this bill will make mass transit more attractive to more commuters, bring more revenue into the system at no cost to the City or the MTA, and will help more New Yorkers save money on transit costs that have skyrocketed in recent years.
Require the expansion of a car-share program for City-owned vehicles
New York City owns and operates nearly 27,000 vehicles as part of its municipal fleet, costing an estimated $700 million annually. The City launched a car share pilot program in October 2010 for the City’s non-emergency light-duty vehicles and since 2012 has allowed municipal employees to use Zipcar for official City business. Currently, car share technology has been installed on 15 percent of the City’s non-emergency light duty fleet.
The Council will pass a bill that goes even further, requiring the use of car share technology on more of the City fleet, thereby significantly reducing the number of City-owned vehicles on the road over the next five years.
Create a citywide plan for a Bus Rapid Transit network and advocate for changes in State law that support additional lines (Int. 211-2014 by Council Member Lander)
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has been used in cities across the world to affordably expand mass transit. In New York City, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has studied and implemented (along with the MTA) eight “Select Bus Service” (SBS) lines that have sped up travel times along heavily-used existing bus lines, and several more are in planning stages.
Int. 211, sponsored by Council Member Lander, would direct the DOT, in consultation with the MTA, to adopt a citywide BRT network plan with public input. This would set the stage for the construction of a real citywide BRT system that is potentially competitive with subway and car commuting when traveling between boroughs outside Manhattan. A citywide BRT system could increase ridership and reduce the commutes of residents from boroughs outside Manhattan in a more cost-effective way and with a shorter timeline than other large capital projects, such as extending subway lines.
Plan for a More Equitable, Greener City
Promote an equitable, inclusive vision for PlaNYC revision that advances jobs, engages communities and promotes broadly-shared prosperity.
PlaNYC set visionary goals for sustainability in the City and led to numerous successful programs. However, the formation and implementation of the Plan has not deeply engaged local communities or harnessed local civic capacity to achieve its goals. The City is required to update the plan in April 2015, providing an opportunity to bring new and overlooked stakeholders into the planning process.
The Council will advocate for a vision of PlaNYC that better engages local communities in developing goals and implementing projects. The Plan made nods to employment in green industries in the past, but should embrace investing in jobs for the future. The Plan should also prioritize investment in environmental justice communities, with neighborhood-level target goals including reductions in traffic and waste, improvements in air quality, more green space, and resiliency measures. The City could also use this moment to build local civic capacity, investing in community-based organizations that can help implement key PlaNYC goals such as energy efficiency and creating open spaces, as well as act as first responders during crises, such as heat waves.
Strengthen the NYC Clean Air Act (Int. 271-2014 by Council Member Richards)
The New York City Air Pollution Control Code was first passed in the 1970s and has not been significantly amended since its enactment. In order to improve air quality citywide this bill will update the Air Code to strengthen existing standards and regulate new sources of air pollution.
This bill will make necessary amendments to the Air Code in the following ways: eliminate obsolete and outdated provisions and conform the Air Code to developments in State and Federal law and regulation; add greater flexibility for the Department of Environmental Protection to use rulemaking authority to update requirements and standards to account for on-going developments in technology and fuels; and introduce new requirements to limit emissions from certain unregulated sectors, while promoting the adoption of cost-effective air pollution controls.
This bill regulates emissions from certain previously unregulated sources including commercial char broilers and cook stoves that use wood or coal, fireplaces that burn wood, and outdoor wood boilers. It tightens the emissions requirements that apply to non-road diesel vehicles owned by or contracting with the City. It also expands the number of boilers that require registration and certification, which will improve the enforcement of boiler maintenance requirements.