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On the eve of the People’s Climate March in September, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an ambitious goal: The city, he said, would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The pledge was hailed by climate experts, environmental advocates, labor leaders and even the chairman of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York.

Now comes the hard part: getting there.

The plan builds on a goal set by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to cut emissions 30 percent by 2030. Because of work done since 2007, the city has already reduced its emissions by 19 percent.

Nearly three quarters of the city’s emissions come from powering, heating and cooling its one million buildings, and they are a primary focus. The 19 percent reduction was achieved largely by identifying low-hanging fruit, namely, switching from coal and oil to natural gas for electricity generation. Officials warn that future cuts will be much harder to realize.

And the city hopes to serve as a role model for the private sector, making changes to its own portfolio of 4,000 buildings.

As part of the plan, New York is equipping 24 public schools with solar roofs, the first of 300 solar projects the city plans to pursue between now and 2025.

That is the date that the de Blasio administration has set to reach an interim goal: a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for its own building stock.


In addition, the city is soliciting ideas from various agencies on potential building retrofits. The most recent round yielded $108 million worth of projects that would upgrade lighting, insulation and boilers, among other things.

And in partnership with the City University of New York, the city is training more than 7,000 building managers and others, in both the public and private sectors, on energy efficiency.

Reaching its goals will require technologies that do not quite exist yet.

“As we think about the 2050 goal, some technologies need to be developed,” said Daniel A. Zarrilli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Batteries with greater storage capacity, high-tech facade materials and microgrids are on that list.

“That’s why we’re making sure that we are supporting the entrepreneurs who are developing the technologies of the future,” Mr. Zarrilli said.

Getting private owners of buildings to go along may be difficult as well, especially since there are no mandates for the private sector. Instead, the city is dangling a carrot in the form of incentives to lure private building owners and homeowners to cut emissions voluntarily. Mr. de Blasio said in September that if incentives did not work, some sort of requirements would be introduced.

“There is a moral imperative to do this. We’re not going to negotiate the goal,” Mr. Zarrilli said.

“The greenest electron is the one that’s never used,” said Nilda Mesa, the recently appointed director of the city’s Office of Sustainability. “That’s why it makes sense to talk about efficiencies and retrofits.”

The authors of a report released this week by the Alliance for a Greater New York and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., among other groups, called for an aggressive mandate for private landlords to retrofit their properties to meet energy goals.

“We’re not confident that large building owners will get there without the nudge of a compliance mandate,” said Eddie Bautista, of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.


More details on the initiative are expected as the administration faces an April deadline to update PlaNYC, the city’s “sustainability and resiliency blueprint.”


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