Addressing Climate Change and Building a Resilient NYC
New York City is already grappling with the impacts of a changing climate. Each year, 130 New Yorkers die because of heat exposure, mostly in vulnerable communities lacking air conditioning. Almost a decade after Superstorm Sandy, the City remains highly vulnerable to storm surges. Outdated stormwater management systems are inadequate and when a big rain hits, low income neighborhoods in places like southeast Queens are flooded. The City’s current energy infrastructure negatively impacts lower-income communities and communities of color. For example, in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, emergency room visits for children with asthma are double the citywide rate.
Today in NYC, almost 75% of our electricity still comes from fossil fuel. While Local Law 97 is groundbreaking legislation aimed at reducing our reliance on greenhouse gas emissions, under current plans we will still be sourcing at least half of our electricity from dirty power plants in 2030. We need a greater sense of urgency. Andrew is calling for meeting 80% of New York City’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030 and laying out a plan for how to get there as part of a broader, comprehensive climate change agenda:
1. Shift to an 80% clean energy grid by deploying solar, expanding battery storage, siting, permitting and building transmission, and supporting offshore wind production;
2. Reduce building energy emissions and emissions from other sources like vehicle tailpipes and waste;
3. Protect vulnerable neighborhoods from a changing climate
4. Put social and racial justice at the center of the City’s climate work and make sure all New Yorkers have the skills to participate in the green economy; and
5. Educate the next generation on climate change.
Local Law 97 currently requires a reduction in total citywide emissions of 40% below the 2005 baseline by 2030. Andrew’s plan will accelerate the City’s progress, putting New York on a path to reach 50% reductions by 2030, in line with President Biden’s recent Earth Day commitment.
Shift to an 80% clean energy grid by deploying solar, expanding battery storage, and supporting offshore wind production
Wind, Hydro and Transmission
Double down on wind deployment: Accelerate current efforts by working with clean energy developers, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York State government, and the federal government to invest in port and transportation infrastructure around the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal; site, permit, fund and equip additional assembly sites; and launch a new offshore wind job training program at a CUNY college.
Rapidly permit transmission line projects and upgrade interconnection sites: There are major projects underway to bring clean hydro and wind power from upstate New York, Canada, and surrounding states into New York City. The bottleneck for these projects is siting and permitting the transmission. For example, the Champlain Hudson Power Express project will bring power from Hydro Quebec to New York City, but has spent the better part of a decade getting permitted - and still hasn’t been able to start construction. Andrew will get shovels in the ground on these projects to take advantage of the abundant sources of clean energy in the surrounding regions. As part of this effort, the City will also work with ConEdison and merchant transmission companies to site, permit and rezone land where necessary to upgrade existing and build new electric transmission interconnection sites.
Studies show that New York City can generate up to 5 gigawatts of solar energy, enough to power almost half of the city’s daytime peak demands. Today, however, the city generates only 250 megawatts, or about 5% of its capacity. As Mayor, Andrew will:
Work with state government, Public Service Commission, NYISO and ConEdison to support an additional 500 megawatts of community solar: Community solar installations are one important tool to help the City realize its solar potential. In 2015, the Public Service Commission and ConEdison enabled community solar, but effectively capped community solar production in New York City at 350 megawatts. That cap is already 90% utilized by completed projects and projects under development. Yang is calling for adding an additional 500 megawatts to provide for 50 megawatts of community solar installation per year for the next decade.
Convert major landfills and brownfield sites across New York City to Community Solar Installations: Our city has thousands of commercial and industrial “brownfield” properties that are chronically vacant, underutilized or environmentally contaminated. As Mayor, Andrew will survey these sites and dedicate feasible lots to community solar, beginning with Edgemere Landfill. Edgemere Landfill was the longest continuously used landfill in the country, operating from 1938 to 1991. Over the course of 53 years, once vibrant wetlands were turned into a toxic waste dump. As Mayor, Yang will give it new life as a solar power generating project that can help turn the tide against climate change.
Bring ConEdison to the negotiating table to simplify the interconnection approval and permitting process: One of the big barriers for solar installations - and for battery storage - is getting approval from ConEdison for an interconnection to the grid, a process that can take 18 months. The climate crisis can’t afford that kind of bureaucracy. Yang will bring ConEdison, solar developers, and battery storage developers to the table and hammer out a simpler, faster process for approving and building interconnections.
Work with the state legislature to enable community solar projects built outside of New York City to benefit New York City residents: Even after deploying solar on all economically feasible locations in New York City, many low-income communities will still not be able to benefit from cheaper, cleaner, electricity from community solar projects. Yang is joining the New York Solar Energy Industries Association in calling for the elimination of regulatory barriers that limit membership in community solar projects to projects sited in the same utility territory. Current policy should be updated to enable cross-utility crediting i.e. the transfer of bill credits across utilities. Addressing this arbitrary barrier could enable solar access for more than 500,000 New York City households.
Reform the permitting process for rooftop solar installation: The Yang Administration will digitize the permitting process for rooftop solar (as part of a broader permitting reform push) and grant conditional building permits to reduce soft costs for developers.
Enable property owners to access PACE financing: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is a low-cost mechanism for property owners to make energy-efficiency upgrades that is available in states and cities across the country but not yet in New York City. The current Administration committed to launching PACE in New York City in 2021, but to date, not action has been taken. Yang will resolve outstanding regulatory issues and make PACE available in his first year in office.
Overhaul the permitting process for battery storage and commit city-owned land to battery storage projects: As NYSERDA has highlighted, green projects, such as battery energy storage solutions, are essential to a resilient and reliable power grid, the adoption of sustainable energy generation, and a clean energy economy. Technologies such as these are the way forward to create jobs and sustain our environment. But the battery storage projects have been bogged down in the City’s convoluted permitting process, which requires multiple overlapping reviews by as many as four separate agencies, much of which is still conducted through the exchange of letters. Andrew Yang will streamline the permitting process for green energy projects, including battery storage and will commit city owned-land to them. During Andrew’s first term, he’ll put the city on a path to have 1.5 gigawatts of distributed energy storage. Read more about Andrew’s announcement on battery storage energy and jobs.
Mobilize Private Investment
Andrew is also calling for public and private pension, endowment and other fund managers based in New York City to swiftly divest from fossil fuel industries and reallocate capital to the green economy. As Mayor, he will bring together CEOs of leading financial institutions to encourage commitments to investing in green, job creating industries, especially here in New York City, and use new financing tools, like green bonds, to raise capital directly for sustainability-focused city infrastructure projects.
Reduce Building Energy Use and other Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Municipal building retrofits: Prioritize installing solar panels on municipally owned buildings and on public housing wherever feasible. Many of these installations can be financed by private investors if the City can commit to expediting permits and approvals. Andrew will also look for non-traditional sites to deploy solar, like over city landfills. Andrew will also retrofit public buildings and public housing projects to reduce enerygy emissions, for example by deploying new technologies that maximize the efficiency of steam heating systems. Again, many of these projects can be privately financed or financed by state entities like the NYGreen Bank.
Enforce the requirements of Local Law 97: The first compliance deadline for Local Law 97 falls on May 1, 2025, during what will be Andrew’s third year as Mayor. Landlords will be pushing to dial down the climate emission reduction targets. As Mayor, Andrew will insist that owners follow through to meet the goals of the Climate Mobilization Act. At the same time, he will position the City as a partner to help commercial and residential property owners and managers make the transition away from dirty fuels and towards fully electrified building systems. For example, he will use the City’s own buildings as demonstration projects for how landlords and building owners can meet the emissions reductions requirements and will advocate for state and federal tax credits to offset costs. He will also scale up Community Retrofit NYC so that all neighborhoods benefit from greener, cleaner buildings. These retrofits will create thousands of jobs. Andrew will also advance common sense steps to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life, like expanding the NYC CoolRoofs program.
Community retrofits: Scale up the Community Retrofit NYC program to ensure that vulnerable communities see the benefits of building efficiency (lower utility bills and improved housing quality).
Build a citywide EV charging system and electrify the city’s vehicle fleet: Work with Con Edison and the private sector to deploy electric charging stations across New York City, accelerating the broader adoption of EVs and creating jobs in the process. Charging stations will be driven by renewable energy sources. To lead by example, Andrew will set the City on pace to electrify the City’s vehicle fleet by 2035.
Establish Commercial Waste Zones: Commercial Waste Zones are critical to reducing congestion and corresponding emissions as well as driving the city towards an ideal state of zero waste. Implementation of Local Law 199 is an important step in achieving this goal. The law calls for the Department of Sanitation to divide the city into 20 zones and then to issue RFPs to select three to five carters for each zone. Carters would award long-term contracts and in return would be required to develop zero waste plans and support waste reduction and recycling. As mayor, Andrew Yang will draw on his experience as a successful entrepreneur who has built businesses and nonprofits, to mobilize a team to execute on these important priorities. Andrew will work closely with the Department of Sanitation to implement this law in the first term, while soliciting community input into the mapping of the zones and into the specific requirements on the carters. Further, Andrew will commit to expanding programs like DSNY’s Curbside Composting program, the Compost Project’s community composting sites and GrowNYC Zero Waste Program, which manages residential food scrap drop-off sites at Green Markets. Such efforts will give New Yorkers the tools they need to engage in proper recycling of organic waste.
Implement Congestion pricing: As Mayor, Andrew Yang will work with the Governor, our federal delegation and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to ensure congestion pricing moves forward immediately, which will inject badly needed funding into New York City’s subway and bus capital plans and reduce vehicular traffic.
Protect Vulnerable Neighborhoods from a Changing Climate
Mitigate the Heat Island Effect: Expand the successful CoolRoofs program, which can reduce building temperatures by up to 30% by covering roofs with light-reflective membranes; add additional ‘cooling centers’ throughout the city; and dramatically step up the planting of street trees, which both provide shade, reduce ambient air temperature, and help reduce New York’s carbon footprint. Mandate climate-friendly building codes for new developments and require retrofits for already-existing buildings; and Paint streets lighter colors
Restore Coastal Ecosystems to Provide Green Protection: Partner with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore coastal ecosystems, like wetlands, forests and sand dunes, that protect parts of New York, like the Rockaways, Flushing Meadows and the East Shore of Staten Island, from flooding.
Commit capital to the long-term resiliency of the New York and New Jersey Harbor: The Army Corps of Engineers recently suspended the “New York and New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Study,” a study on how to protect the region’s coastlines from major storms and rising sea levels. This study is a critical first step towards building the infrastructure to protect New York City over the decades ahead. Yang is calling for restoration of full funding for and rapid completion of the study as a precursor to construction of the recommended coastline protections.
Put Racial Justice at the Center of the City’s Climate Work and Ensure all New Yorkers Have the Skills to Participate in the Green Economy
Pilot “green zones”: Building on the example of Los Angeles. Green zones are designated for improved public health and economic development through the prevention and reduction of existing burdens (i.e., heightened pollution regulations beyond baseline city requirements), targeting investments (e.g., more explicit targeting of the city’s green infrastructure investments), and the engagement of neighborhood residents.
Invest in urban agriculture: Pass a comprehensive urban agriculture plan and update the zoning codes in manufacturing districts, especially in low-income neighborhoods like Bushwick and Brownsville, to allow for safe commercial urban agriculture.
Expand green job training programs: Bring together trades unions, nonprofit organizations, workforce development centers, community and vocational colleges, and private sector green companies to establish a strong training pipeline for low-income New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color to join the City’s growing green workforce. Support the creation of a Climate and Community Development Fund (CCDF) to fund apprenticeship programs for workers from low-income communities and communities of color, in line with the proposal from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.
Insist that green job projects meet labor standards: Attach labor standards to all major renewable energy projects.
Educate the Next Generation on Climate Change
Integrate Sustainable Development Across the K-12 Curriculum: As Mayor, Andrew will build on existing programs to make sure that every student has a unit on climate change in elementary, middle and high school. These curricula will include earth sciences, history, geography, and human rights, and will highlight the historic and future impacts of environmental degradation and climate change on indigenous communities and communities of color.
Create Extracurricular Opportunities for Climate Studies: Under Andrew’s leadership, New York City schools will offer clubs, after school programs, and digital initiatives to deepen climate education, for example, opportunities for K-12 students to participate in ocean and river cleanups, tree planting initiatives, and other ways to revitalize NYC’s natural world.
Advocate for the passage of three state climate bills: Andrew is also calling for the rapid passage of three bills related to climate education that are still in Committee in the NY State Senate: the Education Grant Program, Model Environmental Curriculum, and Climate Science for HS Seniors.