New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Private Sector Could Help Co-ops and Condos Cut Carbon Emissions

New York City

Carbon emissions, U.N. report, climate change, Climate Mobilization Act, co-op and condo boards.
Aug. 16, 2021

Many New York City co-op and condo boards are terrified – or in denial – about the changes they must make to cut their buildings’ carbon emissions to meet the goals of the city’s ambitious Climate Mobilization Act. What should really terrify them, according to a new report from the United Nations, is what will happen to the planet if they fail to act.

Increasing global temperatures and extreme weather events are providing a “code red for humanity," warned a new report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as reported by Crain’s. “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.” 

That means you, co-op and condo boards. There are already a number of programs in place to help boards pay for building retrofits, such as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, loans, which allow boards to pay for retrofits over time with no upfront outlay. Now the private sector, sensing the possibility of profit, is jumping into the arena of green financing. Investment firms have already closed as many new climate-focused funds this year as were raised during the previous five years combined, according to a recent report from PitchBook, a private markets research firm.

That spending could help boost local clean-tech startups as well as existing businesses, including co-ops and condominiums, that need to find ways to comply with state and city mandates to cut energy use and reduce carbon emissions. Climate-focused startups raised $15 billion globally in the first half of 2021, nearly topping the total investment for 2020, according to PitchBook.

Micah Kotch, a longtime climate-tech investor and adviser to New York startups, believes private sector investment will be spurred by the fact that there is “real money” to be made. “Entire industries are shifting: energy, transportation, food, fashion, real estate,” says Kotch, managing director of Urban-X, a Brooklyn-based accelerator program for urban and climate-focused startups. “As our economy transitions to rapidly meet a net-zero emissions mandate, large investors see opportunities.”

As an example of public-private collaboration, NY Green Bank, a state-run effort to finance renewable energy projects, said last week that it had raised $314 million from Bank of America, the first time the fund has raised private capital. One of New York’s top technology investment firms, Union Square Ventures, earlier this year launched a $162 million fund to invest in climate-focused startups.

For co-op and co-op boards living in fear or in denial, the message is clear: there’s a growing pool of money to pay for retrofits, and there are companies investing in the necessary technology. Now is the time for boards to get busy figuring out the best way to reduce their buildings’ carbon emissions. Waiting, as the U.N. report makes clear, is no longer an option.

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