News Brief

New York City Mandates Carbon Limits for 50,000 Buildings

An ambitious new law makes progress towards NYC’s goal of 80% carbon reduction by 2050 by setting aggressive carbon emission limits for nearly all NYC buildings over 25,000 square feet.

The limits are aggressive—no one argues with that. A sweeping new law—the most ambitious in the world for any large city—forces owners of almost every large building in New York City to drastically limit carbon emissions or pay an annual fine, starting in 2024, of $268 per metric ton of CO2 over the limit. The buildings covered by the law will have to collectively reduce their emissions by 26% by 2024 to avoid paying fines, according to estimates from Urban Green Council.

Empire State Building at night

The Empire State Building and other large structures will be subject to steep fines if they do not drastically change how much carbon they emit.

Photo: Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress (Digitally enhanced by rawpixel). License: CC BY 2.0.
If the Empire State Building’s carbon emissions in 2024 are the same as they are today, for example, it would be subject to annual fines of about $1.25 million. (That figure is based on the building’s carbon emissions being 1.74 kilogram per square foot over the limit, as reported in The New York Times.)

Buildings subject to the law are generally the same as those affected by New York’s energy benchmarking mandates, and the energy performance of those buildings is publicly available at Metered.nyc and elsewhere.  Limits are customized for ten different occupancies, and apartment buildings with rent-controlled units are exempted from the caps but are required to implement prescriptive energy improvements instead.

In addition to reducing their energy use and switching to lower-carbon fuels, owners have a few other options. They can invest in renewable energy that feeds directly into New York City’s electricity grid. They can also invest in carbon offsets, but that option is limited to 10% of a building’s emissions. The City has also committed to developing a cap-and-trade program, allowing buildings within the city that are below their limit to sell credits to buildings that are over.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio has promised to sign the bill, which the City Council passed on April 18, 2019.

More on New York City Green Initiatives

Energy Grades to Be Posted in NYC

Energy Use, Carbon Emissions Down in NYC Buildings

Tenant Submetering Now Mandatory in New York City

For more information:

The New York City Council
Int 1253-2018

Published April 19, 2019

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