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Photo by Philippe Put/ Flickr

City set to require emissions cuts from building owners

Mayor Bill de Blasio this week announced new mandates that will force building owners to make sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo by Philippe Put/ Flickr

Photo by Philippe Put/ Flickr

The new rules will compel owners to meet fossil fuel caps – requiring deeper upgrades to boilers, water heaters, roofs and windows on an accelerated 2030 timeframe – with sharp penalties for failure to comply.

“Time is not on our side,” said Mayor de Blasio. “New York will continue to step up and make critical changes to help protect our city and prevent the worst effects of climate change.

“We must shed our buildings’ reliance on fossil fuels here and now. To do this, we are mandating upgrades to increase the energy efficiency of our buildings, helping us continue to honor the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“No matter what happens in Washington, we will not shirk our responsibility to act on climate in our own backyard.”

When President Trump announced the US would abandon the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year, the Mayor pledged New York City would adhere to the treaty and accelerate its own actions to reach the 80 percent reduction in emissions by the 2050 target.

Fossil fuels used for heat and hot water in buildings are the city’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The mandates announced frontload the most dramatic reductions into the coming decade, and according to experts, are the first step the City must take to help hold global temperature increases to just 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change.

Mandated fossil fuel caps will apply to all buildings over 25,000 s/f, and will trigger replacement of fossil fuel equipment and efficiency upgrades in the worst-performing 14,500 buildings, which together produce 24 percent of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to meet these targets, building owners will make improvements to boilers, heat distribution, hot water heaters, roofs and windows, requiring deeper changes during their replacement or refinancing cycles over the next 12 to 17 years.

The new targets will reduce total citywide greenhouse emissions seven percent by 2035, the single largest step yet taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road, and spur 17,000 green jobs performing building retrofits.

The plan will be enacted via legislation, backed by the administration and sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides.

To compel building owners to meet these aggressive targets, the legislation will set annual penalties that increase with building size and the amount the buildings exceed the fossil fuel use targets.

For example, a 30,000 s/f residential building operating substantially above its energy target would pay $60,000 for every year over the standard, starting in 2030. A one million square foot building operating well over its energy target would pay as much as $2,000,000 for every year over target.

Failure to comply will also affect a building’s ability to receive future permits for major renovations.

To help smaller owners achieve these objectives, the legislation will authorize a Property Assessed Clean Energy program to provide financing at low interest with long terms that allow property owners to pay for energy efficiency investments through their property tax bill.

A PACE program in New York City has the potential to finance $100 million annually in energy efficiency and clean energy projects. A 54-unit apartment building in the Bronx that recently upgraded its boiler and made energy-saving upgrades would have saved $8,000 per year in debt payments had PACE financing been available. The City will also continue to provide expansive technical support and sharing of best practices through the NYC Retrofit Accelerator program.

The plan will stop landlords of rent regulated buildings from displacing tenants or raising rents based on the cost of improvements required by new mandates.

Targets for these buildings will be established in 2020, in tandem with reform of rent regulation. They will also have an extended compliance date of 2035.

The legislation is the first step in fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s Executive Order 26 signed after President withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement.

The executive order committed New York City to the principles of the Paris Agreement and directed all City agencies to develop a plan by September 30, 2017 to accelerate our 80 x 50 efforts and align them with the Paris agreement’s stretch goal of limiting a global temperature increase to l.5° Celsius.

In New York City, fossil fuels burned in buildings for heat and hot water are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 42 percent of the citywide total.

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