Bloomberg: NYC Ready to Fight Climate Change

New York City is more than halfway toward its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030, and has a new plan to prepare for future extreme weather events.
by | June 11, 2013 AT 6:00 AM
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touring damage from Superstorm Sandy. (Photo: AP/New York City Hall, Edward Reed)

New York City is currently on pace to meet all of the long-term climate change and sustainability goals set by the mayor’s office back in 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday. The city is simultaneously launching a $20 billion effort to prepare for the adverse effects of climate change.

The new plan incorporates more than 250 recommendations to improve the city's readiness for another storm like Hurricane Sandy, which caused $19 billion in damages and economic loss. New projections from city scientists also anticipate faster rising seas, hotter summers and more heavy rains, making it imperative that the city take action now, Bloomberg said in a speech announcing the new initiatives.

"Hurricane Sandy made it all too clear that, no matter how far we’ve come, we still face real, immediate threats," he said. "These concrete recommendations for how to confront the risks we face will build a stronger more resilient New York. This plan is incredibly ambitious, and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 200 days, but we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now.”

The highlights include:

  • A 15-to-20-foot levee protecting Staten Island, as well as adaptable flood walls covering lower Manhattan and a storm surge barrier at Newtown Creek;
  • $1.2 billion in funding for building owners to renovate their properties for extreme weather events. Potential measures include upgrading building foundations and reinforcing exterior walls;
  • Improved telecommunications performance during emergencies through various methods: setting standards for power restoration, developing resilency requirements and working with utilities to better stormproof their equipment.

At the same time, the mayor offered an update on the city's push toward sustainability. In 2007, Bloomberg’s administration issued PlaNYC, a long-term sustainability plan that included more than 100 initiatives ranging from greenhouse gas emissions reductions to increased park space to the goal of planting one million trees. A 2011 update set 402 specific benchmarks to reach by the end of 2013. The city released its 2013 report on PlaNYC on Tuesday, which found that the Big Apple has already met or is in the process of meeting 94 percent of those benchmarks.

“We’ve come a long way... Our air is healthier, our waterways are cleaner and we’re building a sustainable future for our city,” Bloomberg said. “We’ve made great progress… but Hurricane Sandy was a devastating reminder that the threats associated with climate change are all too real, and we must continue to reduce the city’s contribution to the problem, while also taking steps to protect our communities and the infrastructure on which they rely.”

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The top finding: New York City is more than halfway toward its goal of reducing its greenhouse emissions 30 percent by 2030. The city has already cut its emissions by 16 percent between 2007 and 2013, according to the new report. A few factors were credited for that improvement: the percentage of the city’s energy using residual fuel oil dropped from 30 percent to less than 2 percent and the city’s solar power capacity has increased tenfold. Overall energy use has also remained flat, even though the city’s population and built floor area have increased.

The progress report highlighted other tangible steps toward a more sustainable New York City. Nearly 750,000 trees have been planted as part of PlaNYC, approaching the 1 million goal. The city has added 300 acres of new parks and opened 129 new community gardens. A cleanup project for previously contaminated commercial and industrial space has led to 8.3 million square feet of new development.

Citi Bike’s launch last week was touted in the report, as was the construction of 300 new miles of bike lanes. Bloomberg has also set a new goal of electrifying one-third of New York City’s taxi fleet by the end of the decade; a pilot program is already underway.

Those are a few of the highlights from the 2013 PlaNYC report. The full findings are below.