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Green Building News

Bill to Cut New York City Carbon Emissions: $20 Billion

The plan to reduce emissions from city buildings also will create an estimated 141,000 new jobs

Legislation to lower greenhouse gas emissions from New York City's largest buildings could cost their owners as much as $24 billion over the next decade, according to a new analysis. Photo: Daniel Mennerick / CC BY-NC-ND / Flickr

New York City’s plan to slash carbon emissions from large buildings over the next decade won’t be cheap.

John Mandyck, board chairman of the Urban Green Council, said in a post on the nonprofit’s website that retrofitting nearly 50,000 buildings will cost building owners between $16.6 billion and $24.3 billion. But the effort also will bring new opportunities and thousands of new jobs.

He called the measure passed by the City Council two months ago—called Local Law 97—”the largest disruption in our lifetime of the New York City real estate industry.” The law sets stringent emissions limits for buildings larger than 25,000 sq. ft. starting in 2024, and imposes even tougher standards in 2030.

“Disruption creates huge challenges,” he said. “But it also brings opportunity.”

If all building owners retrofit their properties to comply with the new law, a $20 billion retrofit market will be required over the next decade, Mandyck said, choosing the midpoint of the predicted cost range. That’s 13 times larger than the market is today. He cited an estimate from David Hsu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that 141,000 new jobs would be created in the New York City metro area by 2030.

Urban Green’s market analysis said the new push to lower emissions would dwarf current spending on building upgrades, which amounted to just $235 million last year. New technologies and new business models will have to be put in place in order to meet the goals, the group said.

“These are big numbers with a wide range of uncertainty with regard to timing and carbon reduction costs,” the analysis said.

State ready to pass climate plan

Urban Green’s predictions come at a time when New York State is poised to adopt a plan that would eliminate most greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 2050.

The New York Times says lawmakers have reached an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to cut emissions by 85% below 1990 levels by midcentury while offsetting the remaining 15% in some other way. Currently, New York gets about 60% of its electricity from carbon-free sources, mostly hydro and nuclear.

A number of states where Democrats hold power have passed laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the Trump administration rolls back regulations on power plants and motor vehicle efficiency, the newspaper said, but none has gone as far as New York. Jesse Jenkins, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, said the agreement “unquestionably puts New York in a global leadership position.”

The bill requires the state to get 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and shift completely to carbon-free electricity by 2040. In addition, wholesale changes would have to come in other sectors, including dwellings, industrial facilities, and transportation.

Gavin Donohue, president of the Independent Power Producers of New York, said the measure would mean state residents will be paying a lot more for electricity in the future. “There’s no doubt about that,” he said.

California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington all have passed bills calling for a switch to carbon-free electricity by 2050 or sooner, The Times said.

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