New York to slash building emissions

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan on Thursday that will mandate nearly 15,000 of the city’s least efficient buildings to become more energy efficient.

Calling it the “most ambitious programme of its kind in the nation”, the plan will require owners of some 14,5000 buildings across the city with a surface area of 2,300 square metres to make sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by modernizing boilers, water heaters, roofs and windows, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

Landlords will have until 2030 to meet the standards, with sharp penalties if they fail to comply.

“Time is not on our side,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We must shed our buildings’ reliance on fossil fuels here and now,” adding that the plan will help “honour the goals of the Paris Agreement”.

In a direct challenge to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, de Blasio insisted that “no matter what happens in Washington, we will not shirk our responsibility to act on climate in our own backyard”.

The fossil fuel caps will apply to 14,500 of the city’s worst-performing buildings, which together produce 24 per cent of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions.

To compel building owners to meet the ambitious standards, the legislation will set annual penalties that increase with building size and the amount the buildings exceed the fossil fuel use targets, according to the mayor’s office.

For example, a skyscraper of around 158,000 square metres, such as the iconic Chrysler Building, could incur an annual fine of some $2 million if its energy use significantly exceeds the city’s efficiency targets, reported AFP.

The new targets are expected to reduce total citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 7 per cent by 2035 and create 17,000 green jobs in carrying out the building retrofits.

In New York City, fossil fuels burned in buildings for heat and hot water are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 42 per cent of the citywide total. The burning of these fuels also contributes to air pollution that causes asthma, bronchitis, and premature death, particularly among children and seniors.


Image credit: Andreas Komodromos via Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

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