NYC Reducing Building Emissions via Local Law 97
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Transitioning to low carbon buildings is an important part of becoming a sustainable city for New York. According to the NYC Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2017, two thirds of the NYC’s annual GHG emissions were from buildings. As a result, the city is taking big steps in reducing carbon footprint of its buildings.
New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act in April 2019, which is also known as the NYC Green New Deal. One of the most important bills passed in the Climate Mobilization Act is the Local Law 97, which also happens to be the most ambitious legislation for building emissions across the world. The law aims to curb Green House Gas (GHG) emissions of buildings over 25,000 square foot, which encompasses about 60% (3.15 billion SF) of the city’s building area starting in 2024. The GHG emission reduction goal for New York’s buildings is 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 emission levels, with more stringent goals for government buildings. The Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance was created by the city government to oversee the law and manage the Advisory Board that consists of 16 members, appointed to inform the implementation and refine the law.
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Local Law 97’s impact is expected to be substantial as it can potentially reduce 26% GHG emissions (compared to today’s levels) for buildings equal to San Francisco’s city-wide emissions. While the law will be an effective step in substantially reducing carbon footprint, building owners may face substantial penalties if they fail to comply. The maximum non-compliance fine amounts to the difference between a building’s emissions limit for that year and actual emissions multiplied by $268. Alternative ways of compliance include purchasing renewable energy credits and emissions offsets. Moreover, the city is also considering an emissions trading program to make it more cost effective. Buildings within the scope of the law are required to have their first compliance report in May 2025 and every following May in the upcoming years.
Emissions per square limits are designated to become increasingly stringent over time until 2050, with currently defined goals for 2024 and 2030. In addition, various adjustments and alternative requirements exist for certain types of buildings such as healthcare facilities. According to the analysis by Urban Green, the emission caps between 2024 and 2019 will affect 20% of the buildings that are currently most carbon intensive. So, most buildings that are subjected to Local Law 97 will have longer time to prepare for compliance. Additionally, the NYC Retrofit Accelerator will be available to educate and assist building owners. Although some support initiatives to enhance financial feasibility of compliance are in place, there are significant concerns about residential real estate market struggling due to expensive retrofits and incentivizing energy use behavior change of tenants.