New York’s City Council proposed a package of bills last Friday, Sept. 19, to slash greenhouse gas emissions, shrink the carbon footprint of city operations and reduce the number of cars on the road.
The legislation, which builds on environmental initiatives undertaken over the past decade, was announced ahead of this week’s United Nations climate summit.
“As we have seen, when New York takes action the rest of the world pays attention and it is my hope that we can serve as a model for cities all across the world as we continue to confront climate change,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.
A bill being introduced by Councilman Costa Constantinides, of Queens, would set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from a 2005 baseline.
“It’s going to force our city to be more innovative,” Constantinides said. “This opens the door for technology and innovation and new green jobs that will make our city greener and more resilient.”
The legislative package builds on efforts undertaken during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who released a sustainability agenda called PlaNYC in 2007.
Advocates said the city must keep setting the bar higher, especially after Superstorm Sandy damaged or destroyed thousands of homes in 2012.
“We understand now we have an obligation to be good stewards on the earth,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, whose home had no heat or electricity for four weeks after Sandy. “Climate change is real; it’s here whether we want to admit it or not.”
Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, said cities must lead the way on addressing climate change, given the gridlock in Congress.
“Cities are ideally situated to identify carbon footprint reduction strategies and to implement them,” Bautista said. “We absolutely have to encourage localities to step up.”
The package of bills includes measures designed to promote low-carbon transportation such as bicycles and to expand a car-sharing program for city-owned vehicles.
Because buildings are responsible for 75 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, several measures are intended to make large and small buildings more energy efficient.
One bill would require managers of large buildings to complete a training course in energy efficient operations of building systems.
“We can significantly cut the carbon emissions from buildings,” said Cecil Scheib, chief program officer at the Urban Green Council, the New York Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.
There is also a proposal for a “Green Jobs Corps” program that would train New Yorkers in areas such as performing energy audits and retrofitting buildings.
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