As President Trump retreats from his predecessor’s efforts to tackle climate change, it is more important than ever that our cities and states develop tools to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the planet’s warming. In New York City, this means first and foremost cutting energy use in buildings, which accounts for over two-thirds of the city’s emissions.
A simple tweak to an existing law could help the city reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and create a template for the rest of the country to follow. Local Law 84, enacted in 2009, obligates the city’s largest buildings to report how much energy they consume each year. Participating buildings then receive scores indicating how efficient (or inefficient) they are compared to similar buildings.
But almost no one sees the data. The ratings are posted on a government website that few people know about and are charted on a 100-point scale that is difficult to interpret. Seven years into the program, even many experienced real estate brokers are unaware the data exists.
That would change under legislation awaiting action in City Council. The measure would require buildings to publish their energy efficiency ratings more effectively, a step that has improved energy efficiency elsewhere. Unfortunately, the bill has been languishing in the Council for months, even though energy disclosure laws like Local Law 84 rely on transparency to work.