Melissa Mark-Viverito is the Speaker of the New York City Council. Donavan Richards and Costa Constantinides are members of the Council.
Last month, New York City hosted the historic United Nations Climate Summit, drawing hundreds of government and business leaders from around the world. These leaders came to reaffirm the risk posed by climate changes to the environment and to vulnerable populations, and to announce workable solutions and initiatives that will reduce global carbon emissions.
These pledges and initiatives come not a moment too soon. If the world does not act now, it may prove impossible to limit the effects of climate change to less than a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature, which would have devastating effects on industry, agriculture, and coastal populations around the world. But, as we have seen before, pledges and promises to make real change on the global environment too often go unfulfilled.
Fortunately, we do not have to wait for others to take action. It is within our power to effect change now. So, while we sincerely hope that the governments and businesses around the world deliver on the commitments they made last week, we are proud to say that New York City is doing its part.
New York City has long been a pioneer in the effort to combat climate change. Over the past few years, the City Council passed over 100 pieces of legislation that reduced the City’s carbon emissions, improved our air and water quality, made the City more resilient in the face of climate change, and ensured that there is a living plan in place to achieve our sustainability goals.
This past week, the New York City Council unveiled a sweeping package of legislation and policy proposals that advance our commitment to a greener, more sustainable and more environmentally-friendly future. This platform will address key areas in the fight against global climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and transportation.
It’s going to take all of us to make this work — which is why we want to empower every New Yorker to have a stake in this worldwide effort. We’re focusing on investing in green jobs and leveraging energy-efficient public projects — which will create new opportunities for hard-working New Yorkers and the currently unemployed. Programs such as the New York City Green Jobs Corps will ensure that our workforce, including economically-disadvantaged New Yorkers, is ready to harness these opportunities.
Our platform sets the ambitious goal of reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. This will require us to think strategically about where we can be energy-efficient, and we’re starting by raising energy efficiency standards for city-owned buildings and passing legislation to build “zero carbon” infrastructure. By proving that ambitious green building goals are possible, even in a dense environment, the City will set an example for both the private and public sectors here and in other cities around the globe.
One of the leading contributors to climate change is our country’s reliance on fossil fuels in our transportation systems. In order to reduce our greenhouse gas impacts, we must invest in low-carbon transportation — public transit, bicycle infrastructure, greening the City vehicle fleet — and other policies that encourage sustainable transportation. The City Council’s package includes incentives encouraging New Yorkers to go green with their transportation choices, including pre-tax commuter transit benefits that will make public transit a more viable option for New York City workers. We’re also proposing to expand the city’s rapid bus network to many communities without subway lines.
Achieving real change will require collaboration at every level of government — city, state, and federal. But more importantly, it will require buy-in from every New Yorker who calls this city home and wants to leave it a little better for the ones to come. As the City Council advances these proposals in the months ahead, we strongly encourage all New Yorkers to attend the hearings and weigh in with suggestions and feedback. We want to hear what environmental needs you see in your neighbourhood and what works in your community in its efforts to go green and sustainable.
Climate change is bigger than any one city, but New York is leading the charge with innovative solutions and bold action.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
Council Member Donavan Richards, Chair, Council Committee on Environmental Protection
Council Member Costa Constantinides
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