New York City to Require Big Buildings to Cut Carbon Emissions

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  • City will help finance upgrades through property tax program
  • Big buildings would be fined if the don’t meet targets

How to Hit the Brakes on Climate Change

New York City will require large buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as part of the city’s goal of cutting total emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling on owners to reduce their use of fossil fuels and boost energy-efficiency, and said New York is the first major city to impose carbon reductions on existing buildings, according to a statement Thursday. The city will help support retrofits and upgrades through low-interest loans connected to property tax assessments.

Buildings account for about one-third of global greenhouse gases and many cities are urging upgrades after President Donald Trump pledged in June to pull out of the Paris Accord. Burning fossil fuels for heat and hot water in buildings is New York’s top source of emissions, and the new policies are expected to reduce them 7 percent by 2035.

“We must shed our buildings’ reliance on fossil fuels here and now,” de Blasio said in the statement. “Time is not on our side.” The plan will be enacted by legislation that will be sponsored by City Council Member Costa Constantinides.

The rules apply to all buildings with more than 25,000 square fee (2,300 square meters). To meet mandated caps on fossil fuels, owners will make improvements to boilers, hot-water heaters, roofs and windows. That would include the 756,693-square foot Trump Tower built in 1983.

Buildings that don’t comply will be fined, depending on their size. For example, a building with more than a million square feet that exceeds its targets would be fined as much as $2 million a year.

The city will also authorize a program to finance upgrades through low-interest property tax assessments, a format that may reduce borrowing costs, according to the statement. For example, a 54-unit apartment building in the Bronx that recently replaced its boiler and invested in efficiency improvements could have saved $8,000 a year in debt payments under that program, called Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE could finance $100 million a year in upgrades in the city.

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