“In the end, all the forward-looking policies articulated in Washington and in Copenhagen will have meaning only when a landlord in New York City decides to sign up a contractor this summer to weatherize his pre-World War II apartment building.”— Steven Cohen, writing on State of the Planet
In light of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, Steven Cohen, author of Understanding Environmental Policy, questions Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to drop an initiative that would reduce the greenhouse emissions from the city’s buildings.
In a post on State of the Planet, Cohen cites the mayor’s press release which argued that the plan would have reduced the city’s emissions by 30% by asking building owners to better weatherize their buildings and conduct energy audits every ten years. However, as Cohen suggests, “it seems that New York’s real estate industry is too poor these days to be energy efficient.”
The problem is that the City’s financial wizards cannot figure out any way for owners to recoup their investments, since owners would pay the costs of improved efficiency, but under some leases they would not be able to recoup their costs, and only tenants would receive the benefits. And, even if some owners are willing to invest and can recoup, private capital has become increasingly scarce and the resources are simply not available. It’s more than a little scary to think that there cannot be some arrangement under which the owners of New York’s largest buildings can invest in energy efficiency measures that pay for themselves in five years
With all the clever financial minds wandering the streets lower Manhattan, I’m surprised that no one seems to be able to figure out a way to deal with this.