NYC Can Reduce Its Carbon Footprint 90% By 2050

The greatest obstacle to a responsible approach to climate change mitigation is a sense that the problem is insoluble. Urban Green Council’s research report, 90 by 50, demonstrates that the emission reductions required are in fact possible using technologies that are known and in almost all cases currently available, and that the cost is manageable from a citywide perspective.

New York City has undertaken many greenhouse gas reduction programs to serve the plaNYC goal of reducing the city’s emissions 30 percent by 2030. While largely successful, they don’t go nearly far enough. To ensure a global environment in which human society can bring security and prosperity to all its members, we must dramatically reduce carbon pollution by 2050. To meet this goal, a reduction of 90 percent in the readily measured fraction of New York City’s emissions is appropriate.

The building sector is the source of 75 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions. 90 by 50’s modeling of eight typical building types shows that heating and cooling loads can be reduced through retrofit measures to a point where all thermal loads can be met by heat pumps, eliminating building fuel use. The resulting electric energy used in 2050, supplied by carbon-free sources, will be slightly more than today's, while peak demand will increase significantly. Over the period examined, the savings from energy use reductions will be comparable to the amortized cost of the improvements.

In the transportation sector, electrification and the expansion of mass transit and freight rail, as well as the latest federal fuel economy standards, will allow total residual carbon emissions to drop by 90 percent. Waste, wastewater, and other smaller sectors are also included in the analysis.

Interested in learning more?

Check out our interview with Richard Leigh, the author of 90 by 50.