New York City Green Plan Update Shows Progress, Charts Future Goals

New York-plan-sustainability-updateFour years ago New York City launched a plan aimed at making it one of the most livable and environmentally friendly cities in the United States.  This Earth Day the world got its first in-depth update on how New York City’s green plan, titled “PlaNYC” is progressing.  New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled an updated plan at the city’s Harlem Stage.  The plan tracks progress made since the original PlaNYC was launched in 2007, and outlines 400 goals the city intends to meet by the end of the year 2013.

PlaNYC is our agenda for a greener, greater New York that will help guide our city to a better future,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “In four short years we’ve come an incredibly long way toward our goals, and now, together, we’re finding new ways to accelerate our progress.”

PlaNYC is divided into ten sections, each one focused on a different aspect of city livability or environmental responsibility.  Long term goals include cutting the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75%, improving public transit opportunities, and making sure all city residents live within a ten-minute walk of a public park.  PlaNYC also aims to reduce greenhouse emissions 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030, and to give New York City the cleanest air quality of any large city in the country.

So far greenhouse emissions have fallen by 13% since the plan’s launch—although since a variety of economic and other factors determine yearly emission levels, this doesn’t necessarily mark the beginning of a permanent trend.  Since 2007 the city has also made headway toward increasing access to parks and public transit, and in greening the New York’s yellow cab fleet.  Overall New York City has made impressive strides in the last four years, despite an economic downturn many predicted would derail sustainability initiatives.  Now the city has a chance to build in this hopeful beginning and realize even more of its goals in the years ahead.  The updated PlaNYC specified which initiatives are likely to be a major focus in years to come.

When it comes to air quality, one of the most significant milestones the mayor’s office hopes to achieve is the phase out of heating systems that emit dangerous levels of soot.  Boilers that rely on dirty-burning heavy oils produce pollutants responsible for an estimated 3,000 deaths in New York City each year.  The 1% of buildings in the city that use heavy heating oils generate 86% of the soot pollution from buildings.  New city regulations will target the dirtiest and most commonly used heavy oils.  By 2015 use of #6 heating oil in buildings will be prohibited, and by 2030 #4 oil will be phased out as well.  Since soot is a greenhouse gas, this should also help New York reduce its contribution to climate change.

Other major initiatives included in the updated PlaNYC include a loan program to help residents pay for building efficiency upgrades, tax incentives to encourage vegetable gardens on building roofs, and plans for renewable energy projects like solar plants that could be built on top of former landfills.  Mayor Bloomberg also announced a new social media tool, called “Change By Us,” that will help connect residents with information and resources to reduce their own environmental impact. 

“Earth Day is time when we ought to remember the wisdom of this Kenyan proverb: ‘The Earth was not given to you by your parents.  It was loaned to you by your children,’” Mayor Bloomberg said on Friday. “We cited that proverb on Earth Day four years ago, when we unveiled PlaNYC and it’s in that same spirit that we update it today.  Through the plan we will make sure that the city we return to our children is a sustainable one.”

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