By Daniel Zarrilli, New York City’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor and OneNYC Director
It was just two years ago that President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, one in a string of direct attacks on American science and action to confront our climate crisis. It wasn’t acceptable then and it won’t stand now. We face a climate emergency and its number one cause is the continued burning of fossil fuels and the decades-long campaign of deception and denial by fossil fuel companies to hide that fact. But as those of us in the C40 network recognize, it is local leaders that have the power to step up around the globe and lead the way to real solutions that end our reliance on fossil fuels and secure a livable future for the next generation.
With the release of OneNYC 2050, Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised the bar and put forward New York City’s Green New Deal, taking bold action to confront our climate crisis, achieve equity, and strengthen our democracy. New York City’s Green New Deal starts with a vision for a better world that our kids will inherit. One where we are no longer addicted to fossil fuels — where we have transitioned in a fair way to a green economy that works for everyone — and where our democracy includes us all. And thankfully, here in New York City, it’s not just a vision — the work of a Green New Deal is already happening.
For five years, this administration has been hard at work confronting our climate crisis. We have invested billions in municipal building retrofits and electric vehicles. We are taking Big Oil to court for their role in causing this crisis. We are divesting our pension funds from fossil fuels and are investing billions in climate solutions. And we are sharing these innovations around the world. Earlier this spring, New York City and the City of London co-hosted the first workshop of a new C40 Divest/Invest Forum to demonstrate the value of fossil fuel divestment. Barcelona and New York City are also co-leading a new Inclusive Climate Action program to ensure equity is at the forefront of our collective work.
Now, with the new OneNYC 2050 actions from Mayor de Blasio, we will go further and faster. This means implementing new mandatory building retrofit requirements, giving building owners just five years to cut their pollution or face major fines. It means banning all-glass, high-rise construction unless it meets the absolute highest energy efficiency standards. And it means securing enough clean electricity to power our entire city government on 100% renewables within five years with hydropower from Canada. These measures will get at the heart of the city’s climate pollution — our buildings — and ensure safer and healthier homes and workplaces for all New Yorkers.
But we don’t stop there. Confronting our climate crisis also means converting every City fleet vehicle to electric and renewable fuels, expanding solar — which we’ve already increased seven-fold since 2013, cutting beef purchases 50% and phasing out processed meat, a major source of emissions, implementing congestion pricing, speeding up buses, prioritizing streets for pedestrians, and moving to a mandatory citywide organics program.
In total, with these measures, this administration will have locked in nearly an additional 30% emissions reduction for a total reduction of 40% by 2030 and created tens of thousands of jobs on our way to full carbon neutrality for the entire city in 2050. And with that, we will be able to keep fossil fuels in the ground, which is exactly where they belong. That’s what the science demands of us to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit and avoid catastrophic changes to our world.
How we get there matters too. Which is why New York City’s Green New Deal focuses on achieving a vibrant democracy and an inclusive economy, ensuring thriving neighborhoods, efficient mobility, and modern infrastructure, making sure New Yorkers live healthy lives and benefit from equity and excellence in our schools. These measures will make sure that every New Yorker is part of the solution and no one is left behind as we achieve a just transition to a better world.
Taking on the fossil fuel industry, getting our emissions to net zero, building greater resiliency citywide, and making sure all New Yorkers have a fair opportunity to thrive — these may not be easy, but they are necessary if we are to secure a livable future for the next generation. New York City’s Green New Deal is the antidote for what ails our world today. And it has already begun. We hope that you’ll join us.