The NYC Climate Mobilization Act: Awesome, Ambitious...Menacing

The NYC Climate Mobilization Act: Awesome, Ambitious...Menacing

  • Gene Keyser
  • 03/24/21

Homeowners Must Start Complying with the NYC Climate Mobilization Act or Face Economic Challenges & Financial Penalties

According to the Pew Research Center, 2/3’s of Americans think the government should do more on climate change. NYC intensified climate initiatives under Mayor Bloomberg with the passage of Local Law 17 of 2008, which established a citywide sustainability plan, and created the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

It is hard to overstate how transformative New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act will be, Nixon Peabody lawyers write in the first of two installments on the state’s environmental laws...Businesses across all industries must pay strict attention to developments out of Albany over the next few years to anticipate and analyze how these regulations will shape their future.

- Bloomberg Law on Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Oct 23, 2020

In 2009, Local Law 84: Building Benchmarking Energy and Water Use was passed requiring all buildings larger than 50,000 sf to submit their energy and water consumption data to NYC Department of Finance via ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Collecting information on various buildings allowed the commission to set benchmarks for lowering carbon emissions. A flurry of energy laws have been passed since, expanding the list of “covered buildings.

For comprehensive information and timelines see my NYC GREEN NEW DEAL GUIDEBOOK

On April 18, 2019, New York City took another large step in confronting climate change with its own version of a ‘Green New Deal,’ passing the Climate Mobilization Act (which includes LL’s 92, 94, 96, & 97). This legislation establish a citywide requirement for all buildings 25,000 square feet and larger to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by the year 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.

Law Highlights

      • Affects buildings greater than 25,000 square feet
      • Sets increasingly stringent limits on carbon emissions per square foot in 2024 and 2030, which depend on building use and occupancy.
      • Strong advisory board mandate to help refine emissions metrics and limits, plus a Carbon trading study and implementation plan.
      • Flexibility to comply through renewable energy credits and/or emissions offsets.
      • Requires buildings to add green roofs and/or solar panels to new buildings or when permit requiring modifications are made to a roof on continuous areas of 200 square feet or more (that are unobstructed by mechanical equipment).
      • Specifies low-cost energy-saving measures (not emissions limits) for some affordable housing.
      • Penalties for non-compliance and variances for financial hardship.

Impact on Residential

Multifamily and office buildings are responsible for 87 percent of energy use in benchmarked buildings. Multifamily housing alone—large apartment complexes and similar buildings—make up nearly 70 percent of total floor area and use over half of all the energy consumed by benchmarked buildings.

      • The new laws cover appx. 50,000 buildings and nearly 60 percent of the city’s building area: 59 percent residential and 41 percent commercial.
      • Residential buildings, especially coops and condos which do not have ready access to capital face considerable headwinds
      • Requires 40 percent citywide emissions reductions by 2030 from a 2005 baseline.
      • For covered buildings, that’s a 26 percent carbon cut (5.3 million metric tons) from today, the equivalent of San Francisco’s citywide emissions.
      • Many buildings are significantly above emissions limits and will require comprehensive retrofits or alternate compliance by 2030.
      • Penalties are assessed at $268 per ton of carbon over cap.

The potentially large financial effects on multifamily buildings and individual home owners is yet to be seen, but the commission is adamant that this is about carbon reduction, not increasing penalties for non-compliance. Free and low-cost resources including guidance and financing for efficiency and carbon reduction projects are in the works.

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