NEW YORK CITY-On the heels of President Obama’s state of the union address—in which he issued a call-to-action to cut energy waste from homes and businesses in half over the next 20 years—a new study points up the major role NYC’s CRE industry can have in this effort. The country’s largest city can feasibly reduce its carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050, according to the study, released Thursday by the Urban Green Council, the New York Chapter of the US Green Building Council.
Issued in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and other unprecedented weather events that re-focused attention on building preparedness, the timely study, called 90 By 50, finds that by updating and streamlining the city’s buildings and infrastructure, New York City can meet that goal and even exceed it. That’s because the changes would reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to the low levels identified by scientists as necessary to contain climate change.
The study’s director, Richard Leigh, says in a statement, “New York City has been in the forefront of U.S. cities pursuing a sustainable future. But climate science tells us we must nearly eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to contain climate change, and 90 by 50 sketches out one version of the road we must travel.”
Buildings are New York City’s greatest contributor to carbon pollution, producing 75 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to UGI. The transportation sector accounts for another 21 percent. Climate scientists say carbon pollution must be reduced 80 percent worldwide by 2050 to ensure a safe, sustainable environment, the institute reports.
To do the study, a virtual New York City was created using key building types. The model was then adjusted to improve future buildings using currently available technologies like improved insulation, the use of heat pumps, and transportation electrification. The result was a building sector essentially free of carbon pollution, the release states.
Environmental and urban leaders agree that the city’s current infrastructure is unsustainable but disagree on the feasibility of finding a solution. 90 By 50, the release asserts, “is the first study to tactically demonstrate how an American city can tangibly and affordably meet the challenges of climate change.”
The study assumes that through 2050, buildings will remain functionally the same as today, without sacrificing physical comfort. UGI claims that all tested tactics are either available now or reasonably foreseeable. The institute describes the cost factor as “neutral, when the economy and other factors are considered.”