Greening New York: Part One – Climate Policy

The City of New York’s climate outcomes can mean climate incomes—and jobs and contracts—for industrial businesses. In this first blog in the series, learn about New York’s climate imperatives, what the law requires, and the opportunities it brings.

In order for New York to respond to and actively address environmental change requires a retooling of how the city works. To do that, city agencies that oversee areas like water and sewer infrastructure, parks and streetscapes, housing, and electricity generation will be making a number of new investments in their own assets—and will require industrial businesses to provide goods and services to help them do so.

On Thursday, April 15th, 2021, in partnership with the Department of Small Business Services’ (SBS) Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity, these agencies came together to share forthcoming city efforts to develop green infrastructure, and explain how industrial businesses, and minority/women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) in particular, are keenly poised to play a role in that transition.

Why is it important for cities to respond to climate change?

First off, at the very local level climate resiliency is a question of basic life functioning: cities like New York need to protect their streets and buildings from flooding, as we saw in Hurricane Sandy and even in ‘sunny day flooding,’ when high tides combine with sewer backup in low-lying areas to flood entire neighborhoods—as well as extreme heat, which is the main source of climate-related deaths, and is a particular issue in cities like New York, which is 22 degrees warmer in the evenings owing to the amount of heat that black tar. Bolstering the city’s systems will require the services of infrastructure firms and maintainers.

Second, to actually reduce the city’s climate impact, it will be necessary to shift to 100% clean electricity by 2040—including 1000MW of solar by 2030, 500 MW battery storage by 2025, and a move toward making 80% of trips by clean, electric, or non-personal transport. Of course, these transitions will mean business opportunities for companies across the industrial spectrum.

So how is this actually going to happen? There are two major suites of laws that have come out of New York to address these goals. The first, from the City of New York, is the NYC Climate Mobilization Act of 2019. It consists of:

The City itself is not exempt from these requirements—city-owned properties and operations will require a 40% emissions reduction by 2025, and a 50% reduction by 2030.

City agencies will be undertaking investments and infrastructure upgrades that will require private industrial companies’ participation—and contracting.

The other series of laws have come from the State of New York in Albany, under the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires the state’s economy to have net-zero emissions by 2050. At least 35% of the benefits of these investments, according to the law, must accrue to disadvantaged communities in the State, many if which are in the five boroughs of New York City.

How do you get started as a business looking to stay in compliance? Or as a business looking to supply the response?

One way is the NYC Accelerator, which helps buildings understand their requirements and develop adaptation strategies; provide support for contractors and connect them to business opportunities; and provide employee training and other business support for the adaptation.

In our next blog, we’ll look at green infrastructure investments and business opportunities forthcoming from a number of city agencies.

The content in this blog post is based on a presentation by Ellie Kahn of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for “NYC SBS’ M/WBE Green Infrastructure & Energy Efficiency Open House” held on April 15th, 2021”