Earlier this month, the NYC Mayor’s office released the long-awaited OneNYC 2020 Progress Report. It provides status updates on various initiatives established by OneNYC 2050, the city’s long-term plan to address many current and future challenges, including the climate crisis.
Some of the most ambitious goals listed under the plan aim to achieve carbon neutrality and 100% clean electricity. The targets include offsetting 100% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and increasing city pension fund investments to $4 billion in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other climate change solutions by Fiscal Year 2021. Other long-term goals include eliminating city pension fund investments in fossil fuel reserve owners by 2022, reducing 70% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 2050, and reducing city-collected refuse by 90%.
- The budget for city pension fund investments in renewable energy increased from $2 billion to $2.9 billion from FY 2018 to 2019.
- The curbside distribution rate increased 0.1% from FY 2018 to 2019.
- The share of New Yorkers that live within a quarter-mile of the bike network increased slightly from 80.0% in 2016 to 82.0% in 2017.
- The share of the electricity mix from clean sources increased from 27.0% in 2017 to 39.6% in 2019.
- The annual number of NYC Ferry riders increased from 4.9 million in 2018 to 6.4 million in 2019.
Negative and/or Neutral Progress:
- From 2017 to 2019, the rate of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions decreased from 18.2% to 15%.
- Using the 2005 baseline for comparison, the rate of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector decreased from 6.0% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2019.
- In 2019, the total number of National Flood Insurance Program policies in force decreased from 53,971 in January to 52,570 in December.
- No change in the number of city pension funds in fossil fuel reserve owners ($5 billion).
- No change in the share of New Yorkers who live within walking distance of a park from 2018 to 2019.
- No change in the rate of electric vehicle share of new motor vehicle sales; it remained at 1.4% from 2018 to 2019.
The city’s social justice agenda is on the right track with the majority of its initiatives. Divestment from fossil fuels and investment in renewable technology is the best direction for the city to take if it is to achieve carbon neutrality. Based on the new Presidential administration’s environmental justice plans, we are especially hopeful for ambitious federal climate action that will support the city’s goals as well. However, it is also necessary for the administration to lay the groundwork to completely offset GHG emissions across multiple sectors. At the rate of progress noted from this report, many of these ambitious initiatives are facing rates that are either decreasing or stagnant, revealing there is a long way to go before the city achieves its goals.
There are some data points that do not reflect the overall progress of an initiative, whether it is near completion or not. For example, although there was no change in the share of New Yorkers who live within walking distance of a park from 2018 to 2019, the NYLCVEF Climate Tracker reports the city is close to reaching its goal. In 2019, 81.5% of New Yorkers live within walking distance, and the administration’s goal is 85% by 2030. In addition, although there was an increase in the rate of reducing city-collected waste, it was a mere 0.1% increase. The reported 18.1% is nowhere near the city’s goal of a 90% reduction.
It is important to note the OneNYC 2020 Progress Report does not reflect the drastic budget cuts in FY 2021 to environmental initiatives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, the city must acknowledge the gap between their progress and achievements. The Mayor, City Council, and other city administrators must be forward-thinking about the steps needed to achieve these targets in the coming years.