Mayor Bloomberg Discovers It’s Not Easy Being Green

As the world prepares for a global summit meeting this month in Denmark to meet the challenge of climate change, New York City has sounded a retreat on its most ambitious effort to reduce greenhouse gases emanating from the Big Apple.

After intense opposition from building owners, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has backed away from a proposed mandate that would have forced the retrofitting of all structures 50,000 square feet or larger to make them more energy efficient, according to a report in Sunday’s New York Times. Bloomberg announced the plan with great fanfare on Earth Day in April.

In New York City, buildings account for an estimated 80 percent of total carbon emissions. Mayor Bloomberg has pledged to reduce the city’s total emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Bloomberg’s original plan would have put the nation’s largest city in the forefront of efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of U.S. metropolitan areas. The plan, which building owners said was too costly, called for all buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to undergo audits to determine which renovations would make them more energy efficient, and for owners to then pay for many of those changes.

The mayor wants to go forward with the proposal to require energy audits, but now is leaving it up to the building owners whether to undertake the changes called for by those audits, the Times reported.

Many cities require that newly constructed buildings be energy efficient, but do not impose those standards on existing properties. About 22,000 buildings, together accounting for nearly half the square footage in the city, would have been affected.

According to estimates, Bloomberg’s original plan would have created 19,000 construction jobs. Without a mandated retrofit requirement, Louis J. Colletti, president and chief executive of the Building Trades Association told the Times he doubts that many of these jobs will materialize. “I’d be shocked if 5,000 of those jobs were created,” he said.