New York City emitted 24 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2010. This is a very large amount, but on a per-capita basis New York's 6.5 tons of CO2 equivalent per capita is the smallest of all large American cities. Transportation accounts for a total of 21% of NYC's citywide CO2 emissions - 18% on the roads, 3% from transit.
|From Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions|
Citywide, from 2005 to 2010, the Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions reports that CO2 emissions are decreasing.
"When external factors of weather, population growth, fuel economy, and power supply carbon intensity are excluded, overall GHG emissions decreased 4.8 percent during this period [from 2005 to 2010]."
This performance puts NYC on track to achieve the goals laid out in the city's strategic plan, PlanNYC.
"City government GHG emissions are now below the FY 2006 base year level and current annual reductions are at the level necessary to achieve a 30 percent reduction by 2017. "
With little national-level leadership on carbon emissions, NYC is experimenting with many ways to reduce the city's carbon footprint. NYC's Mayor's Challenge is one of the city's initiatives to help cut emissions, focusing on building energy use. The program promotes partnerships and collaboration with private entities - such as companies, universities, and hospitals - that set goals to reduce their energy usage.
In the transportation sector, the city has continued to make steady gains in improving the efficiency of the city's extensive streetlight system. By installing low-energy lighting, the city has reduced their streetlight energy consumption by 25% since 2006.
NYC is trying many approaches to mitigate the city's carbon emissions, but they're also taking proactive actions to deal with the threat of climate change. NYC has embraced a vision of a resilient city by planning for climate change adaptation. The difference is explained in Climate Change Adaptation in New York City: Building a Risk Management Response:
"Mitigation actions are undertaken to address the long-term risks of climate change through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while adaptation is needed to respond to the short-term risks that are unavoidable as well as to long-term risks. […] Given the impacts of climate change, its high costs, and the requirements of effective long-term planning, investments are needed to begin the climate change adaptation process. "
A significant challenge for the city will be creating a climate-resilient transportation network. For a city where 41% of commuters take the subway to work, and over 50% of population does not have access to a car, secure power to the transit system is an essential part of the city's resilience. Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the disastrous effects of damage to the city's transportation infrastructure.
Historically there have been plans for storm walls along many shorelines around New York City, but few have been built. Since Sandy, some have called for storm-surge gates to protect the city against disastrous flooding, while others are advocating for eco-system based solutions. What adaptive measures do you think NYC should take to become a city resilient to climate change?
Thanks to Brett Lezon for editing this post.