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A New Way to Reduce a Building’s Carbon Footprint

New York City

Carbon Trading
May 30, 2019

Many co-op and condo boards are petrified by the looming costs of building retrofits that will be required to bring them in line with the city’s new Climate Mobilization Act, which has mandated that large buildings must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. For those petrified boards, help may be on the way. 

The nonprofit Urban Green Council has announced a global partnership with green councils in Hong Kong, London, Singapore, and Toronto to explore carbon trading as a way for buildings to comply with emissions guidelines. Under carbon trading, buildings that lower emissions below the required level are able to trade those excess carbon savings with buildings that are unable to meet the requirements. The council is hoping its recommendations, which will be released in about a year, will serve as a guidepost for New York City as it embarks on its own planning process for carbon trading. 

“We want to be helpful to the city's study and answer the top 10 or 12 questions that need to be addressed when we think about how carbon trading could work in New York City," says John Mandyck, chief executive of the Urban Green Council. "We're building on our long history of convening experts to get the best ideas and channel suggestions from around the world." 

The Urban Green Council will release an estimate next month of how much building owners, including co-op and condo boards, will have to spend on energy-reducing systems and other carbon-mitigating strategies to meet the ambitious targets of the Climate Mobilization Act. Mandyck says the tally would be in the "many billions of dollars." Buildings now account for about two-thirds of the city’s carbon emissions. 

Praise for carbon trading is coming from many quarters, including Danielle Spiegel-Feld, executive director of the Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy & Land Use Law at the New York University School of Law. “The less expensive it is to reduce emissions, the more ambitious the city’s targets can be and the more likely others are to follow in our footsteps,” she says. “A (carbon) trading regime holds substantial promise to bring costs down. As such, we’re delighted that Urban Green is leading this effort to explore how trading can help New York and other major cities advance their climate goals.”

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