Earth Day is a worldwide celebration to promote sustainable habits across the globe, but the reality is that the need for comprehensive solutions is more pressing than what can be accomplished in a single day.
Since the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, the number of cities around the world reporting on their efforts to combat climate change has risen 70%, from 314 to 533. In North America, that number increased by 72%, with 131 cities now making use of environmental impact assessor CDP's carbon disclosure platform. Although great progress, these reporting cities represent only about 8% of the world's population. There can, and should, be more cities and towns participating in the disclosure process.
Here in New York City, we have been working diligently to lead the way on this objective.
In 2014, the New York City Council announced '80x50', an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 2005 levels by 2050. So far, we are well on our way to meeting that goal.
I have joined with colleagues to prioritize legislation that will help us meet our aim of 80x50 and keep NYC as a leader in combatting global climate change. We have worked to spread environmental justice throughout our communities by bringing resiliency plans, sustainability programs, and greener building standards to each of the five boroughs.
With each law that is passed, we get one step closer to lessening our contribution to climate change, and reinforcing our ability to withstand the effects that it is has already become too late to subvert.
In the United States, roughly three-fourths of citizens believe that climate change is real. Regardless of that idling quarter and the protestations from various political leaders, climate change is happening - and it is happening now.
We see it in prolonged droughts and increased severe weather systems. We see it in rising sea levels and heightened levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And in New York City, we have seen it in outsized snowstorms and surging hurricanes that decimate areas of the coast that decades ago would have remained safe.
There is no time left to wait for those infrastructure-crushing weather crises that might finally convince those lingering few to take action.
The time to act is now.
We hope that many of the laws we have enacted over the last several years can be used as a model for action by other municipalities around the world. We set ambitious but realistic sustainability targets, mandated comprehensive long-term planning that includes extensive community and advocate input, including from our city’s low income communities and minority communities, and made city agencies more accountable for the emissions they create by mandating car sharing, requiring new city buildings be built to some of the most energy efficient standards in the country, and by retrofitting existing city buildings with solar and geothermal systems. We comprehensively revised and strengthened our air pollution code, required creation of a pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations at public locations, and updated the energy efficiency standards that all new buildings in the city must conform to. We have also remained vigilant to the increased threat of catastrophic storms by hardening our infrastructure and by building back those communities destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in a way that will reduce future impacts. And we are only just getting started.
We are in this together, and the systems we built whose emissions threaten us now are only ours to reform.
As Earth Day events continue, I encourage all of you - New Yorkers and individuals around the world - to consider what you can do to lessen your impact on our planet. Not just this weekend, but from here on out.