The foundation for a big change was laid in the month of September, in 2014 when Mayor de Blasio presented the ambitious carbon reduction goal for NYC. It proposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to the 2005 carbon emission levels. This can be achieved through two major ways:
- Gradually switching over to renewable sources of energy for the generation of electricity
- Making the most of the available resources by boosting the efficiency so less energy needs to be supplied
As a matter of fact, achieving these two objectives look easier on paper than they really are. It would need the active participation of all New Yorkers and require them to make a drastic transformation in their lifestyle and actions. So, is it possible for New York to reach the 80×50 goal? Is it realistic?
Let’s begin by understanding what needs to be done.
Boost Solar Installations
This is already underway. The DCAS has already installed more than 10 MW of solar on 57 New York City buildings. The goal is to install 100 MW of solar by the year 2025. This is an increase of approximately six times the number of solar installations that were in 2014. In September 2018, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) partnered with five teams to design and install rooftop solar gardens which will aim to create sources of low-cost energy in New York.
Divesting from Fossil Fuels
NYC, in January 2018, announced that it will fully divest its pension funds from firms owning fossil fuels reserves within five years, and, in the effort, because the first major U.S. city to do so. We are talking removing $5bn investment, and this is a herculean task. There have been more than 1000 divestments commitments worldwide since. The truth is that wind and solar account for only 4% of New York state’s energy usage, and the state’s pension fund is still quite heavily invested in fossil fuel companies.
Make Public and Private Building Energy Efficient
New York City is taking initiatives to improve energy efficiency in buildings, both private and public, across the city. This can be achieved through reduced energy use and maximizing renewable energy consumption. NYC Retrofit Accelerator and Community Retrofit NYC programs are targeted at helping owners and operators of buildings make informed decisions regarding upgrades that will result in GHG emissions. The City has invested approximately $500 million so far in improving energy efficiency. Also, there are new energy codes that went into effect in 2018 and will be updated every 3 years – buildings undergoing renovations will be required to meet these codes to ensure some level implementation by 2050.
Make Transport More Efficient
When the goal set is so huge, it becomes necessary to make changes in almost all facets. Governor Cuomo had suggested congestion pricing in New York that would impose a fee on vehicles entering Manhattan. This would serve dual purpose. It would not just reduce the number of private vehicles entering the borough but also generate plenty of revenue for funding a greener infrastructure. Congestion pricing has already gone into effect for taxis and car-shares rides south of 96th St. in Manhattan. The goal is to expand this for all traffic. Though this would raise fares for commuters, it is a welcome step keeping in mind the long-term goal.
The 80×50 goal indeed looks tough indeed, but with the support of New Yorkers, it is achievable. The City has already set its priorities and is making consistent efforts towards reducing carbon emissions.