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I am here to make this appeal to you that New York City now takes extraordinary leadership in blazing a path forward for the world to a safe, clean energy future. The fact that so many of you and our Mayor marched down the streets of New York City with 400,000 people last year to demonstrate New York’s commitment to transforming our energy system, is so inspiring and gives me encouragement and hope. But we have to look seriously at where things are heading. It’s clear from the inadequate measures for avoiding catastrophic climate events decided in Paris this week that the ball is in our court, right here in New York City. Even if the new goals and targets adopted in Paris were clearly implemented and adhered to, we would still have devastating climate impacts—droughts, fires, floods, and new waves of immigration driven by famine and environmental catastrophes across the planet without strong, decisive local action! We cannot lose another day or talk about goals for 50% renewables by 2030 or 80% renewables by 2050. We need to make the commitment right now, today, to stop all further reliance on fossil, nuclear and industrial biomass fuel, 100%, as rapidly as is humanly possible and with all the know-how and can-do attitude that exists in our wonderful city.

New York City must act in the same spirit as President Kennedy did when he pledged to put a man on the moon in 10 years, and then went ahead and did it; or be as committed as our nation was when we geared up to build an atomic bomb in three years to make sure we had one before Germany got the bomb during World War II. We must truly understand that the scale is not insurmountable as Professor Mark Jacobson, founder of the Solutions Project explained in a 2009 Scientific American article. He proposed a plan to power 100% of the planet by 2030 with only solar, wind and water renewables, calling for millions of wind turbines, water machines and solar installations to accomplish that task. He reminded us that “society has achieved massive transformations before” and that “[d]uring World War II, the U.S retooled automobile factories to produce 300,000 aircraft and other countries produced 486,000 more in only four years”. His global proposal recommends, in part, building 3.8 million windmills to provide 51% of the world’s energy demand and we are reminded that even though the number seems enormous, the world manufactures 73 million cars and lights trucks every year. In 1956 the U.S. began building the Interstate Highway System, which after 35 years extended for 47,000 miles, changing commerce and society. 

Here in New York we are blessed with an abundance of offshore wind right off the coast of Long Island—we could be the Saudi Arabia of wind, and currently, except for a small wind pilot project off Rhode Island there is no offshore wind in the entire United States. What an opportunity for our City! There are studies that show that an array of offshore windmills could actually slow down incoming hurricane winds and offshore wind power would thus be a double blessing—giving us free, abundant, clean energy and protecting us from ocean surges that devastated our city during Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, New York City has the great good fortune to have a very shallow seabed going out over the horizon so we wouldn’t have to deal with any controversy about the “viewscape” which we witnessed up in Massachusetts. Add to wind the urgent need to retrofit all our buildings which according to Plan One NYC is the low-hanging fruit that will gain us lots of negawatts through efficiency allowing us to leave much more oil, coal, and uranium in the ground. And let us not forget to gear up our rapid installation of solar and geothermal options for energy. Just think of the hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs that would be created that have to be done right here and can’t be shipped off to some poor country for low wages. We wouldn’t want anyone to work on this project in any capacity at less than $15 an hour and New York City should adopt that minimum standard for a living wage right away. If Seattle could do it, so can we!

Numerous cities, countries, counties and other geopolitical divisions are committing to 100% sustainable energy in short time frames as early as 2020. And as we celebrate Frank Sinatra’s centennial, now more than ever it’s up to us, New York, New York! Because if we can make it here, the most diverse city in the world, we’ll surely make it everywhere and be a beacon to the rest of the world that we can save and protect Mother Earth for our children and descendants by rapidly implementing the already known and proven technology to transform a lethal energy system to abundant life-affirming free power for the people!

In that spirit, in reviewing Plan One please take the following action with Mayor de Blasio:

  • Question Plan One’s commitment to offshore wind and ask for solid timeframes and commitments to major wind installation projects
  • Urge the Mayor to speed up the building retrofits and make them mandatory for all NY buildings, not just city owned buildings
  • Urge the Mayor to develop a rapid plan for solarizing all the buildings in the City where possible, not just a minimal gesture of a few hundred schools and to explore geothermal heat
  • Urge that electric vehicles be charged only from sustainably produced fuel, not fossil fuel
  • Make sure that nuclear power is no longer described as renewable energy (at p.166 of Plan One) and work to rapidly support Council Resolution 694 calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Shut Down Indian Point
  • Set a deadline for no new repairs and installations of fossil fuel infrastructure—and have a mandatory focus on alternate energy possibilities before building any more gas, oil, or coal infrastructure

Urge the Comptroller to divest all city investments not only from coal, which we learned has been delayed for more study, but from all fossil fuels.

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