Panel discusses what new climate regulations will mean for real estate

CUNY TV | WIkipedia

CUNY TV | WIkipedia

Amanda Salazar

Baruch College, in conjunction with the Sustainability Practice Network, hosted a panel discussion on Sept. 25 about New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act and the effect it will have on real estate.

“NYC Climate Mobilization Act: Opportunities and Risks” was a two-hour discussion on the background of the act and the expected impact it will have, moderated by lawyer Russell Unger of Russell Unger Consulting LLC. The panel was held in one of the 14th floor conference rooms inside the Newman Vertical Campus.

Unger opened the discussion with a presentation on the Climate Mobilization Act, with a focus on Local Law 97, to give the audience a clearer understanding of the complex new regulation.

Called by the panelists as one of the city’s most ambitious pieces legislation, the law is aimed to lower the carbon emissions that come from New York City’s large buildings.

The law comes with two deadlines. By 2024, a building must have a plan of action and begin working toward cutting its emissions, and in 2030, it needs to have reduced emissions by a set amount.

Building owners and managers have to cut their rate of carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 and by 80% in 2050. The buildings in the top 20% must lower their emissions to a certain point by 2024.

If a building is unable to successfully cut its emissions at the right amount by each deadline, the owner will have to pay a fine. This will be the case every year until the owners meet the threshold, starting in 2024.

“The big controversy with this law — and we’re going to talk about this more with the panel — is this carbon budget approach,” Unger said.

“It doesn’t take into account anything that’s going on in the building. So, whether you have more people, whether you are open longer, what’s going on in the building — that does not matter as far as the law is concerned.”

The panelists elaborated on Unger’s explanation of the law and the perspectives of their clients.

Overall, the speakers said that it seems that there’s excitement to observe how the law works, but also a lot of anxiety over how it will affect finances regarding real estate and the people who live in the city.

Donna De Costanzo, the eastern region director for the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that her clients were eager to see the law in action.

However, Kelly Dougherty, the director of energy management at FirstService Energy said that her clients are worried about meeting the requirements or having to pay the fine.

“The reaction depends on who you talk to, but I think there’s general consensus that this is a very ambitious law and will go a long way in reducing the city’s carbon emissions,” De Costanza said. “And, as Russell pointed out, we really need to tackle buildings if we’re going to do that.”

“Within the environmental community and other cities, other states around the country, obviously this is something that is very exciting, really showing how cities can lead by example and New York City has been doing that for a very long time, especially on energy efficiency and existing buildings,” she added.

Attendees of the panel said that they felt they learned a lot from attending the discussion. “I came to the discussion because this green certification program that I’m working on is a different update and our biggest market is in New York City for our certification program,” Jocelyn Groom who works in affordable housing, said. 

“I got a lot out of [the discussion]. I learned a lot more detail about snapshots, about what’s required and what kind of buildings are affected. I know more about some of the financial incentives that would be useful for buildings.”

She continued by saying that she is “[t]hinking about affordable housing, as my profession, and also thinking about being a co-op apartment owner, about my building and how it’s going to affect my building and how much we’re going to have to spend for our building, which should be terrifying.”