Earlier this year, New York City became the first city to devise a plan for meeting the goals outlined in the Paris Accord —the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement from which President Trump pledged to pull the U.S. from. The 1.5°C Paris Agreement-compliant climate action plan comes in response to Executive Order 26 (EO26), signed by Mayor de Blasio that reaffirms the city’s commitment to upholding the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The plan identifies specific strategies for reducing GHG emissions necessary to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set forth in the Paris Agreement. Leading the charge is the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS), which has been moving the city’s decarbonization efforts forward by accelerating the implementation of existing projects launched under the 80 X 50 initiative—a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050.
This landmark piece of climate leadership is a big deal. It’s evidence that cities aren’t just making bold commitments with no plan of how to achieve them; they’re taking action and setting the processes for how to get there.
But getting a city, especially NYC a city with roughly 100 agencies, to meet its goals is tricky. An enormous amount of coordination and engagement is required to ensure all the unique players are aligned on, accountable for and proactive about—especially private citizens and businesses– the sustainability actions they set under 80 x 50. It’s the middle miles (the “execution phase”) that gets complicated, and often requires assistance.
The single largest action the City can take to reduce GHG emissions is through building energy performance mandates. Fossil fuels used for heat and hot water in buildings collectively make up 39% of GHG emissions—the city’s largest source of emissions. That’s why earlier this month Mayor de Blasio announced mandates requiring 14,500 buildings to meet fossil fuel standards by 2030.
What does this mean on a broader scale? NYC is a pilot, giving context for how a city can set, and achieve, science-based objectives. NYC is committing to lead in the development of a global protocol for cities to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century and have a chance at a 1.5 degree outcome in partnership with C40 and other lead cities. By mirroring NYC’s tangible solutions and incorporating unique, case-specific steps, cities across the country can take charge and put forward short-term actions necessary to meeting their long-term climate goals.