NYCEarlier last month, the New York City Council introduced a package of bills designed to make buildings more energy efficient. Given that about 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the City come from heating and cooling buildings, regulating how buildings manage energy is crucial to reaching Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of reducing citywide emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

While these bills represent an important step in the right direction, there are opportunities to strengthen them so the intended reduction in pollution is more effective and long-lasting. For example, Int. 1644 proposes the establishment of a ‘green project accelerator’, which would be a program within the NYC Dept. of Buildings to simplify and accelerate the retrofitting permit process by answering questions and making it easier for projects to move forward to the construction phase. However, it refers to only renewable energy projects and distributed energy resource projects and does not make mention of energy efficiency projects, which aim to reduce energy use. Energy efficiency should be included in the bill to complement clean energy sourcing and encourage projects that will limit energy consumption. Our path to achieving 80×50 goals will greatly benefit from this.

Also, while solar is an abundant and important source of renewable energy, Int. 1639 could expand on the renewable technologies that can be used to reduce pollution, such as geothermal or solar-thermal. The bill proposes that the city be required to create a plan for encouraging business improvement districts (BIDS) to increase solar energy use, but omits action on renewables other than solar.

It is up to cities and states to do the heavy lifting when it comes to protecting the environment, especially now that the federal government is not engaging in these efforts. The New York City Council’s commitment to making the mayor’s climate goals a reality is commendable, and taking time to enhance this bill package is vital to make progress.

A link to the original post and the full list of bills can be found here.