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NYC outlines its plan to honor the Paris climate accord

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The plan identifies actions that the city will take to reduce its carbon footprint

Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

When the Trump Administration formally announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a global agreement signed in 2015 by 195 countries to work toward fighting the effects of climate change, 247 mayors from cities across the country immediately issued statements that they would continue to work toward honoring the agreement on a local scale.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to issue an executive order that would determine ways in which the city would fulfill the goals set in the Paris climate accord. In just four months, de Blasio has managed to keep his word and has delivered a plan.

The city has released “1.5°C: Aligning New York City With the Paris Climate Agreement,” [PDF!] the first plan of its kind that outlines a plan to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The mayor’s Office of Sustainability have identified actions that the city’s various agencies need to take within the next few years when it comes to recycling, energy consumption, transportation, waste management, buildings, and carbon neutrality.

“Big problems require big solutions and New Yorkers are already hard at work to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Mayor de Blasio. “In the Trump era, cities have to lead the way when it comes to fighting climate change. Hotter summers and powerful storms made worse by climate change are an existential threat to a coastal city like ours, which is why we need to act now.”

Here are a few of the action plan’s key points:

  • (UPDATE 3/3/17) Come 2020, the city will implement a single stream recycling system. New Yorkers will no longer have to sort through their recyclables, and this in turn will help increase the city’s rate of recycling. New organic waste curbside drop-offs will also help divert organic waste from landfills. This particular program is scheduled to launch next year.
  • The city will pursue legislation to require that all large buildings limit fossil fuel use below intensity targets by 2030 and 2035.
  • Since 90 percent of the city’s transportation greenhouse gas emissions come from private vehicles, the city has committed to an 80 percent sustainable mode share by 2050, meaning four out of every five trips a New Yorker takes will be by foot, bicycle, or public transit.
  • There will be an implementation of a citywide organic waste collection that will include expanding the curbside organic waste collection program to all New Yorkers, increasing the number of drop off sites, helping to expand community composting sites, working with landlords to enable all residents to separate their food waste, and expanding the number of businesses required to separate organics.
  • The city will launch a new program that prioritizes energy conservation efforts for city-owned buildings. It will also commit agencies to achieve an additional 20 percent energy reduction across their portfolios by 2025.
  • Officials will work with City Council to “adopt ‘stretch’ versions of the energy code in 2019 and 2022” in order to reduce energy intensity reduction by 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Starting in 2025, all large new buildings would be required to build to very-low energy design targets. The benefits of such actions would result in long-term affordability of new buildings through reduced operating costs.

The plan has garnered the support of countless local officials will be working alongside them to put it into effect.

“This announcement isn’t just about sending a message to the world about our priorities as a city,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “It puts New York on the front lines in the battle against global warming in a meaningful way. These are important steps to protect the future of our city – and the planet.”

The 33-page agreement highlights a collection of objectives but interestingly enough, it doesn’t mention congestion pricing, which transit advocates believe are an obvious way to get people to drive less and opt for public transportation more often, leading to lower carbon emissions. While Governor Andrew Cuomo is a proponent of congestion pricing, Mayor de Blasio is not and has called the idea “inconceivable.”