Large corporations are at the center of NYC’s slow climate change response



Hillary Setyo

Although there have been plans to combat climate change, the real root of the problem starts with big energy corporations such as Con Edison and National Grid, and the lack of action from the building and transportation sectors to enforce the city’s climate laws.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared some of the country’s most ambitious climate laws, yet New Yorkers are still experiencing the unprecedented and catastrophic effects that result from climate change.

There is a culture of pressuring citizens to take small steps in their daily lives to reduce their contribution toward climate change, but the reality remains that large corporations are the root of the issue.

According to, The City Council passed Local Law 97 in April 2019 as a part of de Blasio’s New York City Green New Deal, requiring most buildings over 25,000 square feet to comply with the new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission limit by 2024, according to This law aims to reduce 40% of carbon emissions that are produced by the city’s largest buildings by 2023 and up to 80% by 2050.

Con Edison, National Grid,  and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability commissioned a study on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 through the acceleration of renewable energy and emission cuts from large buildings and transportation.

It explicitly states that this partnership serves as an example toward the goal of carbon neutrality, but it is difficult to trust the credibility of this study due to the past actions of these same companies, who have spent millions of dollars lobbying against climate legislation and renewable energy.

Recently, De Blasio also announced a new energy investment deal during September’s Climate Week.

The city aims to integrate renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power, wind power and solar electricity from Canada and upstate New York. De Blasio declared that by 2025, the city will be powered by 100% renewable electricity and will replace 50% of the city’s fossil fuel electricity with renewable energy, according to ABC News.

At the moment, de Blasio’s ambitious plans appear to be political talking points.

New York City requires energy efficiency grades for big buildings, but about 40,000 buildings that were required to post grades concerning their building efficiency received a grade of D or lower, according to The Gothamist.

Climate change is already putting thousands of lives at risk. It fueled Hurricane Ida’s calamitous rainfall and related flooding from the Louisiana coast to New York City.

The city broadcasted a flash flood emergency due to the extremities of the rainfall. This warning is only issued for the most extreme and dangerous rainfall conditions, according to Forbes.

Ida serves as an example of harm and risk possible from the changing precipitation patterns and flooding due to climate change. In general, a variety of research has proven that climate change accelerates warmer temperatures, which have risen statewide by about 2.4°F since 1970, brings more expected storm events and heavier downpours and raises the sea level.

Still, the city is taking a huge step toward solving the climate crisis with the Climate Mobilization Act, which consists of laws to cut carbon in the city.  But it has yet to lead by example, like by making it so most, if not all, buildings utilize solar power to reduce dependency on fossil fuels or large energy corporations. Buildings currently don’t get fined for receiving low grades in terms of their energy efficiency, but they could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for performing poorly by 2024.

A failure to hold corporations, politicians and certain individuals accountable will result in no major actions to combat climate change. Unless New York focuses on this urgent matter at hand, thousands of lives will continue to be at risk every day.

Through Collective action and pressuring local government to act, New York could move one step closer toward a greener future.