When former President Donald Trump announced that the United States would exit the Paris climate agreement in 2017, hundreds of mayors across the country pledged to keep pursuing the goals of the accord. Among them was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who signed a law in 2019 that committed the city to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.
Much of the work of implementing the law will fall to New York’s next mayor. And in a city with more than 3.7 million registered Democrats and only about 500,000 registered Republicans, whoever wins Tuesday’s Democratic primary will almost certainly win the general election in November.
The city government has already allocated $3.8 billion for renewables and energy efficiency measures in public buildings in its next 10-year capital budget, said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, a local organization focused on labor, justice and climate. Because of uncertainty over how much the next mayor will prioritize climate and environmental justice, she and other advocates want de Blasio to start the work before he leaves office. Installing solar panels on schools and other public buildings is a way to create much-needed jobs coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Silva-Farrell said.
She has also called for solar installations to be paired with HVAC systems to better protect students returning to in-person schooling from air pollution and infection. Climate can be the “connective tissue to address many of the issues that we face in our city,” Silva-Farrell said. So far, she doesn’t see the mayoral candidates fully grasping that interconnection.
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