New York City's Strategy for a Greener Future

New York City's Strategy for a Greener Future

New York is in the vanguard of American cities battling climate change and leads the charge on many fronts.

In a Q&A with The Climate Group, Adam Freed, the deputy director of the New York City Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, details the city's comprehensive PlaNYC campaign and why Climate Week NYºC is so important.

Released on Earth Day 2007 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, PlaNYC lays out the city's vision for a sustainable future and the strategy to achieve it -- while also accommodating projected population growth of nearly one million people in the next 20 years.Climate Week Inset

Since PlaNYC was issued, New York City has enacted landmark legislation to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings, invested $80 million a year to reduce city government's greenhouse gas emissions, and a launched an extensive climate resilience program.

The Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability was charged with developing PlaNYC and is responsible for its implementation. Freed leads the city's resilience efforts and chairs the NYC Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which consists of 40 city, state and federal agencies as well as private companies. The task force is identifying climate vulnerabilities to the city's critical infrastructure and developing strategies to mitigate these risks.
Adam Freed
Here is Freed's exchange with The Climate Group:

1.    How important is the issue of climate change to Mayor Bloomberg?

The mayor has made combating climate change and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions a priority. Cities represent 75 to 80 perent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the world's densest cities are located on coastal areas that are susceptible to the urban heat island effect and sea level rise. So, it is imperative that we take proactive steps to combat climate change.

In 2007, the mayor released PlaNYC, a comprehensive long-term plan to accommodate a million more New Yorkers by 2030 while creating a greener, greater city. Through PlaNYC, we are taking concrete steps to reduce the impact that we have on the environment, so that we can accommodate that growth in a sustainable manner.

2.    What is PlaNYC?

PlaNYC is a comprehensive plan to meet ten long-term goals central to our city's economic, environmental, and social health while facing the challenges of aging infrastructure and climate change. Many of the initiatives within PlaNYC are actually the common sense solutions that people can do. We help provide the information and the framework to enable these changes. For example, we recently enacted landmark legislation to require ongoing energy efficiency in large buildings, which will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Such legislation can result in investments and new jobs while saving people money. So it's really the synergies between all of those things that help drive PlaNYC.

3.    What's the mayor's vision for cutting emissions in New York City?

Our goal is to reduce our citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. And, because we believe government should lead by example, we have pledged to reduce municipal government's emissions 30 percent by 2017.

In PlaNYC we outline each of the individual steps that we'll take to reduce our emissions. New York City is already a very environmentally efficient place. Per capita, New Yorker's have a carbon footprint that's about one third the national average. But we recognize we have to do more, which is why we're taking a number of actions to reduce our emissions. In doing so, we've adopted a data-driven process to identify where we can reduce our emissions and are holding ourselves accountable by producing an annual carbon inventory.

4.    Tell us a little bit about why Climate Week NYºC is so important and the impact it had on New Yorkers last year?

Events like Climate Week NYºC are a critical component to ensure that we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and meet our goals. Engaging individuals and encouraging them to take concrete steps to reduce their emissions is absolutely imperative. Government, businesses and non-profit organizations can't do this alone, and the changes that need to occur have to happen at the individual level. So events like Climate Week NYºC that really focus people's attention and that bring people together to talk about climate change and the actions people can take, need to be a part of a long-term solution.

5.    Small actions can add up to making a big difference: How is the city government helping New Yorkers help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?


As part of PlaNYC we are taking a number of actions to try to reduce our energy consumption and our greenhouse gas emissions. One example is the use of LED lights in Central Park and other locations throughout the city to pilot the new technology and see how it could work on a wider scale.

We are also partnering with entities like Broadway theatres, universities and hospitals as part of the mayor's challenge to get them to meet our municipal government's goal of reducing our emissions 30 percent by the year 2017.

And through GreeNYC, our public education and engagement campaign, we are helping New Yorkers save money while they reduce their carbon emissions and make NYC a healthier place to live.  We believe the government needs to be a leader, but cannot do it alone. Each New Yorker's small steps, put together, will add up to big strides.

6.    How optimistic are you in meeting your PlaNYC targets?

PlaNYC contains a number of ambitious but achievable goals. In many ways, the long-term goals that we have can be quite daunting when you look at them today. However, the alternative or the consequences of not meeting them are more than daunting. They are scary. Through PlaNYC, we have set ourselves on a pathway where we can reduce our carbon emissions, meet our long-term goals and reduce the negative consequences that we have on the environment.

Freed has over 10 years of experience in city and state government. Prior to joining the Bloomberg Administration he served as the Assistant Comptroller for NYC in the Office of the New York State Comptroller. He has also worked on several city, state, and national political campaigns. Freed received his master's in Urban Planning from NYU and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He currently resides in New York City's Lower East Side with his wife and sons.

Dasha Rettew is head of member engagement in North American for The Climate Group. Articles, analyses and resource material about Climate Week NYºC are available at www.greenbiz.com/topic/climate-week-nyc-2010. For more information and event developments, visit www.climateweeknyc.org and Twitter @ClimateWeekNYC. 

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Muhammad.