A Greener Skyline: Curbing carbon emissions for the future’s sake | The New York Community Trust
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July 11, 2019   |   By The New York Community Trust
A Greener Skyline: Curbing carbon emissions for the future’s sake
Woman holding baby bird

A BIRD IN HAND: Dr. Susan Elbin, Director of Conservation and Science at New York City Audubon, holds a baby Herring Gull, born on the Javits Center green roof, a habitat for wildlife. Photo by Hannah Williams for The Trust

To keep global temperatures from rising, we need to reduce significantly carbon pollution. And that means changing how we heat and cool buildings.

“Collectively, commercial and residential buildings generate nearly 70 percent of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions,” says Arturo Garcia-Costas, The Trust’s program officer for the environment. And fossil fuels (natural gas, oil, and propane) used for heating represent the lion’s share of those emissions.

Last April, the City passed the Climate Mobilization Act, a package of legislative measures that requires building owners to meet tough new standards, slash planet-warming pollution, and install solar panels or green roofs on new buildings. Our recent grants support those efforts.

Urban Green Council is using $75,000 to put NYC’s new buildings emissions law into practice through educational events and policy development. Urban Green’s recent conference drew over 350 building professionals to explore the path to retrofitting 50,000 buildings in 10 years.

One of the most effective ways buildings can reduce emissions is by installing high-efficiency electric heat pumps, an alternative to boilers. With $138,000, Acadia Center will work with state agencies in the Northeast to make it easier for homeowners to use heat pump technologies. The Building Electrification Initiative will use $110,000 to help several U.S. cities develop new programs, policies, and strategies that help their residents make the switch.

Building owners can also install solar panels, low-flush toilets, and energy-efficient windows. But perhaps the most visible change an owner can make is adding a green roof.

“In the summer, green roofs reflect and absorb sunlight that regular roofs would attract, while in the winter, the greenery acts as an extra layer of insulation,” says William Cosgarea, sustainability specialist at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Trust donors toured the Javits Center’s green roof, where they saw bees, birds, greenery—and breathtaking views of the City’s skyline. They also heard grantee New York City Audubon and Javits Center speakers explain the construction and benefits of green roofs. A grant of $60,000 is helping NYC Audubon coordinate the NYC Green Roof Researchers Alliance, which brings researchers, educators, and policymakers together to expand the use of green roofs locally.

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