Supporting New York City’s climate goals
In spite of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, New York City made steps to become the nation’s first city to develop a pathway that will follow the agreement’s principles. Named the 1.5o Plan, it outlines the actions the city will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and significantly decarbonize over the next three years.
Hundreds of other cities have since followed suit, demonstrating their commitment to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5oC. C40 Cities, who sponsored the development of the plan, commissioned BuroHappold Engineering to work as the policy and technical consultant to New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS).
The 1.5o Plan will implement actions across energy, transportation, building and waste sectors by 2020 to accelerate reductions of GHG over the following 30 years. The plan exceeds the already ambitious goals of the existing 80×50 initiative, which seeks to reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050. If successfully implemented, the plan has the potential for a reduction of 10 million metric tons of C02 – the equivalent of taking more than two million cars off the road by 2030.
To meet the challenge of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5o C, the plan needed to implement major climate actions to reduce GHG emissions. New York City’s groundbreaking plan focuses on limiting use of fossil fuels in all large buildings, a move that will affect over half the built floor area in NYC. Other key actions include a focus on recycling waste, buildings, energy and transportation and carbon neutrality. Our role was to work with the City to identify actions and assess the benefits and potential impact of each of the final 31 actions in the plan.
While climate change affects everyone, it is often the poorest and most vulnerable communities that are the hardest hit. Although the 1.5o Plan’s actions and targets are critical to accelerating the reduction in GHG emissions, it was equally important to ensure that the actions identified were equitable, collaborative and integrated.
The project team assessed and analyzed the near and long-term greenhouse gas reduction impacts of each action, as well as the city and non-city investment costs, and the feasibility of implementation for each action. We also carried out qualitative and quantitate assessments of the benefits for each action, the first analysis of its kind for climate action planning at this scale. These benefits were categorized using OneNYC visions and included growth, equity, resiliency and sustainability.
Where possible, benefits were analyzed and presented spatially to ensure that actions benefit all New Yorkers equitably. For example, we advised that by identifying communities without bike lanes, the City could focus on engaging with those communities to install new bike infrastructure and improve health and safety. Additionally, by identifying areas with poor air quality, the City could focus on building retrofits, saving fuels, and reducing Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMTs) to improve health outcomes for communities living in these areas.
We worked closely with a number of different agencies and stakeholders across NYC. This collaborative approach led to revisions to the actions, as well as providing enough detail for investment costs and benefits. The plan also integrates existing and planned activities that stakeholders are undertaking and highlights the GHG emissions impact for each, as well as the economic innovation and lead-by-example benefits.
This, combined with continued communication throughout the project, helped garner support and incentivized stakeholders to take on responsibility for implementation of the actions.
Adam Friedberg, Associate Principal
Our work to help refine and analyze the 1.5o Plan has contributed to devising a set of actions that will both increase the speed of GHG reduction while also addressing environmental justice and social equity. The work has also strengthened the relationships between agencies and stakeholders involved in implementing different elements of the plan.
In addition, the analyses and plan methodology are being shared across city agencies and all C40 Cities to help develop equitable, inclusive climate action plans. Many of the actions identified in the plan can be replicated across cities and communities globally, making New York City’s 1.5o Plan internationally significant as well as vitally important for the city and its community.
When we integrate our engineering specialisms around a core theme, the benefits to the client multiply