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Port Authority will curb emissions with electric cars, green buildings

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The transportation agency aims to cut its carbon emissions by more than 20 percent

JFK Airport.
Max Touhey

It’s been more than a year since the Trump administration announced that it would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a historic agreement to lessen the country’s carbon footprint in an attempt to fight the global effects of climate change.

In the months since, city and state officials in New York have pledged to do their part to honor the agreement, with the latest efforts coming from the Port Authority. The agency announced this week that it would take “aggressive” measures to reduce its carbon footprint—the goal, according to a press release, is to reduce its greenhouse gas output by 35 percent by 2025, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

“Either we end this problem or this problem will end us,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statemnt, “and the Port Authority’s commitment today will be a critical component of the U.S. Climate Alliance’s global fight.”

According to the New York Daily News, the agency believes that implementing a series of carbon-cutting measures will reduce its output by 22 percent.

To accomplish those goals, Port Authority will roll out a series of green upgrades at its facilities throughout New York and New Jersey. Some of those modifications will be small—swapping in LED lights in airports, bus terminals, and at the World Trade Center, for example—while others could lead to larger changes in the region. The agency will, for instance, issue a request for expressions of interest for offshore wind power facilities on Port Authority land.

One of the major investments will be in electric vehicles: Traditional airport shuttles will be replaced with electric ones; the agency’s “light duty” vehicles will also be swapped out; and it’s looking into piloting a fleet of electric cargo vans. (How much of a difference the electric vehicle surge will truly make without other aggressive measures, however, is unclear.)

The announcement comes at a time when the warnings about the effects of climate change have become more urgent: A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines the impending climate disaster facing the world if dramatic action isn’t taken to reduce emissions and stop global warming. (If the world warms by 2 degrees Celsius, as the IPCC report warns is possible, much of New York City could be underwater.)