Game Changers Deep Dive: NYC’s Strategy to Dismantle & Replace Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

CNCA member New York City takes important steps to phase out fossil fuels and bring renewable energy to scale across multiple fronts.

By Daniel Zarrilli, Chief Climate Policy Advisor & OneNYC Director, Office of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

From left to right, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (center), with Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.org.
Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office / Benjamin Kanter

New York City Doubles Down on the Green New Deal

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City recently launched the second wave of NYC’s Green New Deal, expanding on the success of legislation passed last year with the City Council to retrofit the largest buildings in the city and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In his annual State of the City address, de Blasio set out the following ambitious commitments:

  • End the use of fossil fuels: By 2040, we still stop using natural gas and other fossil fuels in large building systems in New York City, starting in government buildings. This will accelerate the transition to clean heat and very low emissions buildings across the five boroughs. Working with lawmakers, we will ensure that new permits for building systems are aligned with our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Stop new fossil fuel infrastructure: We are not just transitioning our buildings, we are transitioning our city away from fossil fuels by stopping any new infrastructure, such as power plant expansions, pipelines, or terminals that expands the supply of fossil fuels in our city. The Mayor signed an Executive Order codifying this policy on February 6, 2020.

Ramping Up Investment in Clean Energy

In addition to ending our reliance on fossil fuels, we are ramping up investments in clean, renewable energy. That includes:

  • Major wind investment – Off-shore wind is coming to our region. To accelerate its growth, with our New York State and Empire Wind partners, we will equip the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park as a new hub for staging, installing and operating turbines across the tri-state area. We’ll create 500 green jobs and support clean wind power that would reduce emissions equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road.
  • Doubling solar power – Solar power saves homeowners money on their electric bills, but the up-front costs continue to hold people back from installing rooftop solar panels. New York City will launch a new program to defray those upfront costs, letting homeowners pay for them over years out of the savings on their energy bills. We can help install solar panels on 50,000 one-to-four family homes, doubling the amount of solar power produced in New York City and creating 5,000 green jobs.
  • Bring hydropower to NYC – This year, we will secure an agreement to bring more zero-emission hydropower to New York City, which will help run City government operations on 100 percent renewable energy.
  • Make ALL city vehicles electric – The City will rapidly convert or replace thousands of cars, trucks and buses to operate on electric power. By 2025, 4,000 vehicles will be converted or replaced to electric, and by 2040, we will work to make the entire City fleet—every garbage truck, every ferry, every ambulance and every police cruiser fully electric. The first electric school buses will hit the streets this year.

Major Milestone in Divestment  

Not only do we need to take bold actions to tackle emissions and invest in renewables, we also need to stop financially supporting the companies responsible for the climate crisis. That’s why the de Blasio administration is moving to divest billions of dollars from fossil fuels. Last month we announced the selection of advisers to evaluate options and recommend divestment actions to three of our five pension boards, making New York City the first city in the nation to take this major and necessary step to address the financial and environmental risks of fossil fuel holdings. 

The City pension funds are on track to have actionable plans to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners by late 2020.  The expectation is that the pension fund boards will be able to adopt a plan and begin execution in 2021.

Toolkit and Divest/Invest Forum

In addition to the progress mentioned above, the City is working to leverage our national and international partnerships to inspire other municipal leaders and governments to take similar actions, scale up their climate actions, and help to create a more inclusive economy for everyone. As such, New York City launched a toolkit in close partnership with the city of London and C40 Cities.

From March 16-18, 2020, city leaders will come together in New York City to share their progress and experience in divesting from fossil fuel companies and increasing investment in climate solutions. 

New York City has been taking step after step aggressively to protect us against climate change, to do our share. Cities all around the country are doing the same. Join us!

Find out more about the Game Changers Initiative and read articles in CNCA’s Game Changers Series here.