Climate change is one of the most pressing international problems that needs to be addressed urgently. Primarily driven by the emission of greenhouse gases, the Earth has experienced global warming, a rise in sea levels, and decreasing freshwater as a consequence of climate change. In highly developed megacities like New York City, buildings contribute about 3/4th of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the area. This is due to high energy consumption.

To combat this problem, in 2019, the New York City Council passed the historic Climate Mobilization Act by a 45-2 vote. The act contains a seven-bill legislation package through which the Council aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 80% within the next 30 years. Moreover, it requires new and renovated buildings to construct green roofs to help mitigate the impacts of climate change in New York City.

One of the key components of the Climate Mobilization Act is Local Law 97, passed in May 2019. Local officials have stated that although this is one of the most ambitious laws that has been passed by a city, it is a crucial step in fighting climate change and prevent further climate change caused disasters.

So, what does the law mandate? To be implemented in 2024, Local Law 97 sets a greenhouse gas emission limit for buildings that are equal to or larger than 25,000 square feet. Two compliance periods have been set: 2024-2029 and 2030-2034, with compliance requirements for the years up to 2050 to be modified in the future.

Starting in 2025, all buildings will be required to provide a report regarding their carbon emissions for the previous year. The report must be stamped by a registered design professional. A penalty of 268 USD per metric ton of CO2 over the limit will be charged in the case of non-compliance. Buildings will also be penalized if they fail to provide annual reports.

Emissions are directly related to the amount of energy consumed and a number of changes can be made to reduce consumption. Although this may have a high initial cost, energy efficiency leads to major savings in the long term and can generate high revenue. In order to avoid fines, there are certain measures that buildings can take to prevent exceeding carbon footprint limits.

Firstly, you need to determine the total amount of carbon emitted by your building. This can be done through the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager which converts energy usage into kilograms of CO2 emissions. This value can be compared to the limits regarding permissible metric tons of carbon as stated in Local Law 97.

These limits vary according to building type. To determine if you comply with the legislation, compare your carbon emissions to the required limit for the category that your building belongs to. Once you know the extent to which your building’s emissions exceed legal limits, you can take actions accordingly.

To reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, you can consider efficient lighting, equipment retrofitting, switching to renewable energy sources, low-carbon fuels, adjusting thermostats, sensors to prevent overconsumption  of energy, along with numerous other options.

It may not be a good idea to wait until 2024 to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions by your building. It is important to know that this process takes time and you will need a long-term plan to be able to achieve emission mitigation goals in a cost-effective manner. Lastly, do not hesitate to seek the help of professionals such as engineers or compliance experts.