Big NYC Landlords Join Plan to Cut Energy Use 20% by 2030

(Bloomberg) -- Some of the biggest names in New York real estate, including SL Green Realty Corp., Vornado Realty Trust and Related Cos., have signed on to an ambitious plan to reduce energy use in the city’s larger buildings by 20 percent by 2030 -- with some “wiggle room.”

If it’s implemented, the plan would take the city’s 50,000-plus buildings of at least 25,000 square feet (2,300 square meters) more than a third of the way to a city-backed goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, according to the Urban Green Council, the New York affiliate of the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. The Urban Green Council’s 80x50 Buildings Partnership released the plan Wednesday.

Brookfield Property Partners LP, the Durst Organization and Rudin Management Co. are also among the signatories. Other parties include the Environmental Defense Fund, the New York League of Conservation Voters and unions such as the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.

“We brought the most important building and energy stakeholders together around a framework to substantially reduce building energy use in New York City,” said Russell Unger, the Urban Green Council’s executive director.

But the plan comes with a significant caveat: that the signatories “accept the core ideas expressed here, even though some may not agree with the specifics of certain recommendations.” In an interview, Unger called it “wiggle room by design.”

In 2005, New York City was responsible for 61 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, about two-thirds of it from buildings. The city had reduced that number to 52 million metric tons by 2016. A million metric tons is equal to more than 13,000 tanker trucks of gasoline, according to an Environmental Protection Agency calculator.

Local Action

Greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are widely regarded by scientists as a major cause of climate change, leading to rising seas and spurring extreme weather like storms and heat waves. While President Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax and his EPA has backed off from carbon-reducing initiatives such as the Paris agreement, some local and state governments, including New York’s, have pressed ahead with measures designed to cut back on carbon emissions.

One of the partnership’s recommendations is to support a local version of carbon-credit trading, allowing owners who exceed energy-savings targets to sell credits to those who save less. Another is to encourage pilot conversions to high-efficiency electrical heating and other technologies to move away from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. The plan asks less from owners of rent-stabilized housing, to limit rent increases at those buildings.

Calling climate change “a societal problem,” John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said in an emailed statement that “every sector, including real estate, needs to help address it.”

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