Sure, New York City is famous for being the city that never sleeps. But, in the 21st century, the Big Apple is something more: it’s the city that’s leading the way forward.
In matters cultural and economic, New York has long played a central role among its fellow global “megacities.” Now, as New York continues to develop into one of the most progressive and innovative global cities in terms of sustainability, clean energy, and green initiatives, you can add environmental policy to the list of areas on which the city is on the forefront.
Forward-thinking environmental initiatives have already made the city’s per capita emissions dramatically lower than other world cities of comparable size. Energy policies started by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, designed to demonstrate that economic development and environmental protection aren’t mutually exclusive, have paved the way for the New York City that lies decades down the road: a fundamentally different, greener place to live.
Today’s brownfields will be tomorrow’s parks. Clean energy hybrid and zero emissions cars will lead to cleaner air and help slow global warming. The city’s 500+ miles of coastline will be better protected against rising water levels. And clean water policies will help keep the city’s drinking water—famously called the “champagne of drinking water”—the envy of most municipalities.
Clean, reliable energy
A progressive, successful clean energy policy will require multiple sources of energy for the city—and one of these sources is already up-and-running. By keeping carbon dioxide emissions low while producing around-the-clock, price-stable energy, nuclear power can be one of the keys to a greener and more sustainable future for New York City.
The two operating power plants at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York, generate over 2,000 megawatts of electricity, supplying roughly a quarter of power used annually by the homes, skyscrapers, and public spaces of New York City and Westchester County. Indian Point is the largest source of clean energy in the region, saving a whopping eight-to-ten million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Like all nuclear power plants, Indian Point emits virtually no greenhouse gases, one of the reasons climatologists like James Hansen argued in advance of the recent Paris climate summit that existing nuclear energy should be part of our global response to climate change.
“Many people who are serious about holding carbon emissions steady and reducing carbon dioxide emissions find when you do the math, it doesn’t add up without nuclear energy,” says Jerry Nappi, communications manager for Entergy, which owns Indian Point. “As more people get that message, they understand the value these plants provide.”
Nuclear power is one energy source included in the portfolio of diverse green-forward solutions that has put New York City in the vanguard of world cities in terms of lowering greenhouse gasses. The city is taking advantage of both the clean abundance of nuclear and the sustainability of such renewable sources as wind and solar in a host of green-thinking ways.
Late last year, the city announced NYC Clean Fleet, an ambitious program to build the largest electric vehicle fleet of any municipality. It is an example of the city using its $650 million purchasing power to spur the city’s electric-charging infrastructure and other green car innovations. Of course, the long-term effects on curbing carbon dioxide emissions made by electric and hybrid vehicles depends largely on the source of the energy keeping those vehicles charged.
On Earth Day, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to build on the sustainability legacy of his predecessor, putting out a request for proposal to power 100 percent of city government with renewable energy as a part of overall plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 80 percent by 2050. You can bet that the rest of the world is closely watching what will happen next.
Tapping into green
But the green future is not simply about power. This year, construction began on 35 new parks and playgrounds through NYC Parks’ Community Parks Initiative. In April, the city completed plans for 12 more parks in areas where they are sorely needed. Exposure to these kinds of spaces is known to extend life expectancy, so New Yorkers can look forward to enjoying a greener city for years to come.
Then there is the matter of protecting the water that keeps the city’s spaces green and populace hydrated. The city has recently upgraded protections to the Catskill/Delaware watershed that provides 90 percent of the city’s water, and plans to spend 3.4 billion over the next 5 years to repair and replace the aging infrastructure that delivers it downstate. By choosing NYC tap water over bottled water, you are not only helping contribute to a more verdant future city, you are also consuming a product is preferred nearly 2-to-1 in taste tests.
With a commitment to diverse forms of clean energy and innovative uses of that energy, as well as an absolute dedication to the physical act of making the city more green, New York is not just working toward greener future, it is laying out the groundwork for cities, whether they be “mega” or normal-sized, to follow their lead. In other words, if you can make it there… well, you know rest.