While our world leaders gather in Copenhagen to address climate change on a global scale, here at home, New York City tackled the number one contributor to its own carbon footprint – its buildings.
New York City firmly established itself as a leader in the fight against climate change with the City Council’s adoption last week of a package of ground-breaking legislation that will make the Big Apple’s skyline substantially more energy-efficient. These four bills (Int. Nos. 476-A, 564-A, 967-A and 973-A) are part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced on Earth Day this year. Together, the package represents one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching efforts in the nation to curb global warming pollution from existing buildings. It is expected to reduce New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 5 percent, laying an excellent foundation for meeting the city’s mandate to reduce its emissions 30 percent by 2030.
And the good news doesn’t stop at the environment – it extends to New York’s consumers and economy, as well. In these tough financial times, the legislation is expected to create more than 17,000 jobs and lower New Yorkers’ energy bills at the same time – cutting costs by an estimated $700 million a year. The savings will come from the creation of a New York City Energy Conservation Code, and by requiring annual building performance benchmarking, periodic energy audits and building tune-ups, lighting upgrades, energy efficiency retrofits of city-owned buildings, and separate meters for commercial tenant spaces.
When it comes to green buildings, while it’s also important to focus on new construction, we can’t just start from the ground-up. Our existing buildings will be here for decades to come, and making them more energy-efficient is a key part of the solution to address climate change.
As a New Yorker, I’m proud to see Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and the City Council showing local leadership and for demonstrating the important role the cities of the world can play in solving the greatest environmental challenge of our time.