'Green’ cities: The key to sustainability?

Image from the PlaNYC 2030 WebsiteIn introducing his bold, comprehensive plan for a sustainable New York on Earth Day, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed to research showing that New Yorkers already had the lowest per capita carbon emissions in the nation. While most news outlets focused on the controversial idea of congestion pricing for Manhattan below 86th Street, they missed the larger point: Well-planned urbanism is likely to be our best hope for curbing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting oil dependency. Sheryl Eisenberg, a New Yorker who blogs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, explains: “The primary reason is … population density. First, it makes a truly comprehensive public transit system possible. Second, it makes walking and biking emissions-free modes of transportation viable. And third, it keeps home energy use down,” because New Yorkers live in smaller-than-average dwellings, and shared walls are more efficient.”

But Bloomberg acknowledges that much, much more remains to be done. As columnist Neal Peirce notes: “Roadways would be landscaped and 1 million trees planted. ‘Green’ building standards would be required for all new structures and an array of financial incentives created to spark broad-scale energy rehabbing of existing structures.” Those road-congestion fees would go toward financing a significant upgrade of the subway and commuter transit systems, among other initiatives. For a roundup of sources on cities and global warming, read Anthony Flint in the Lincoln Institute’s April issue of At Lincoln House

For more on PlaNYC see:
– “Bloomberg’s Climate Initiative Points to a Big Capitalist Solution” by Neal Peirce
– “A Model for Urban America?” by Neal Peirce
PlaNYC 2030 on the New York City website.