By Bill Parry
New York City took center stage of the planet’s climate change crisis and a city councilman from Astoria was the point man.
Costa Constantinides’ (D-Astoria) bill to reduce carbon emissions became part of the Council’s platform to combat climate change Friday, assuring its passage and Mayor Bill de Blasio advanced the legislation Sunday after an estimated 400,000 people took part in the People’s Climate Change March on Manhattan’s West Side.
“Climate change is the overarching issue here and it was very humbling to see 400,000 people coming together with one voice,” Constantinides said following the march. His legislation, proposed in June, would reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050 and eliminate them almost entirely by the end of the century.
“This is a bill that will help us move in the right direction. New York has to lead the nation and the world on this,” Constantinides said. “INT. 378 provides our city with a mandate to hasten our response to the climate change in a meaningful way. This new paradigm will encourage innovation, technological progress and legislation to continue our movement towards a more sustainable and resilient city.”
The plan would demand all public buildings be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency, expand the use of solar panels and provide financing help for clean energy improvements. The city will try to make private property owners do the same and if they don’t, Mayor de Blasio said, “We’ll work with them, we’ll incentivize, we’ll support. If that is not moving fast enough, we will move to mandates, because we have to get there. This is a matter of survival.”
The mayor made his comments during an impromptu press gathering following Sunday’s march.
“We are now the largest city on earth to adopt the 80-by-50 standard. My hope is that New York City’s example will resonate and build real momentum,” he said.
On Tuesday, the mayor helped open the United Nations Climate Summit by delivering a three-minute speech that urged the people of the world to change their ways for the sake of the planet.
“We know humanity is facing an existential threat,” he said. “The cause is us, how we heat our homes, how we transport ourselves, the reckless way in which we live. This is an issue we all face. No one is spared. And our mutual need to survive should instill in us a kind of unity we so rarely experience.”
Constantinides added that Hurricane Sandy gave everyone in New Yorkers a preview of the dangers of climate change.
“New York City saw it all firsthand,” he said. “Here we are nearly two years later and we’re still feeling the effects.”
Following the People’s Climate Change March, de Blasio agreed that Sandy was a wake-up call.
“Sandy made it personal, made it immediate, added a sense of reality to this dynamic,” the mayor said. “There are other storms ahead, and they could be much worse, and our job is to fundamentally change the dynamic. And we have the power to do so. It will take radical change. It will take many sacrifices. But it can be done and it has to be done.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.