When it comes to the problem of carbon emissions, many people think of automobiles, airplanes, and ocean liners. While these popular modes of transportation are a heavy burden on the world’s carbon footprint, other significant contributors can get overlooked, including large commercial and residential buildings. According to the United Nations Environment Program, buildings account for about 39% of carbon dioxide emissions annually.  Some environmentally minded individuals, organizations, and politicians are looking to change that with new laws and initiatives to cut building carbon emissions. New York City is among the first major cities to pass carbon emission reform with local law 97.
This law means significant changes for homes, businesses, and landlords across NYC. Local law 97 was passed on May 18, 2019, and aims to reduce building carbon emissions in NYC by 80 percent by the year 2050. The law will roll out in phases with increased compliance and reductions as the 2050 deadline approaches. It will affect any building over 25,000 sqft as individual buildings will receive an emission amount based on their size and class type. Enforcement will occur in the form of a fine, which stands at $268 for every metric ton over their limit. The hope is, compliance will be more affordable than merely paying the fine and continuing business as usual. 
How Much Carbon Emissions Does a Building Produce?
Estimated carbon emissions of a given building will depend on many factors, including its size, energy use, power source, and more. Some common causes of direct building emissions come from things like boilers, furnaces, water heaters, lighting, electronics, and more. Additional emissions will depend on where they are connected to the power grid and how that energy is produced, such as wind, solar, or coal. By some estimates, NYC as a whole produces around 50 million tons of CO2 every year, and city buildings cause 67% of those emissions. 
What Is Expected of Building Owners?
Buildings will be assessed by type and size and placed into a category by the city. Based on that designation, they will receive a limit of CO2 emissions per sqft. Every May 1, starting in the year 2025, building owners will be required to file a report with the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance (OBEEP). This report will state whether or not their building is meeting specific requirements. Reports must be certified by a registered design professional to be valid. When limits are exceeded, fines will be assessed until full compliance is achieved and recorded with the applicable city bodies. 
What Do I Need to Do to Comply With Law 97?
To comply, you can start by reading the law in its entirety here, and following all applicable parts of the law as it pertains to you and your property. Additionally, you will probably want to start making preparations ahead of the deadline. Many experts recommend starting by conducting an energy audit of your building, and with that information, develop short and long term carbon reduction plans for your building. Some things you may want to focus on include:
- HVAC systems
- Occupant training
- Other controls and systems
What Are the Energy Alternatives?
Local law 97 allows for compliance alternatives that can help support building owners in their efforts to address emissions, including: 
- Carbon Offsets
- Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)
How Does Buying Carbon Offsets Help?
Carbon offsets are an option for reducing a building’s total emission count. However, the law limits the use of carbon offsets to 10% of a building’s total annual emissions.  This allowance will help any building owner who is unable to make necessary changes at a local level due to financial, technical, or other difficulties.
What Is the Penalty for Non-Compliance?
For every metric ton that a building goes over their limit, they will be fined $268. Additional fines will be given for failing to submit their annual report or falsifying their report details. 
Learn About Third-Party Verified Carbon Offsets from Terrapass
If you want to understand more about carbon offset pricing and projects for your building, please visit us online or contact a terrapass business advisor. We support a variety of third-party verified projects around the globe so you can be confident that your offsets are reducing carbon and making the world a healthier place to live.
- UN Report” Global Status Report 2017” https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/UNEP%20188_GABC_en%20%28web%29.pdf
- Loforte, Robert. “Local Law 97: How A NYC Law Can Change The Way We Look At Emissions.” International Business Times, 20 Aug. 2019, www.ibtimes.com/local-law-97-how-nyc-law-can-change-way-we-look-emissions-2815577.
- Hilburg, Jonathan. “NYC Council Passes Sweeping Building Emission Legislation.” Archpaper.com, 23 Apr. 2019, archpaper.com/2019/04/new-york-city-climate-mobilization-act/.
- “Buildings Must Meet Greenhouse Limits Starting in 2024 – Local Law 97.” The New York Cooperator, The Co-Op & Condo Monthly, cooperator.com/article/local-law-97/full.
- “The Climate Mobilization Act Overview.” Building Energy Exchange, be-exchange.org/insight/the-climate-mobilization-act-int-1253/.
- “NYC Building Emissions Law: Frequently Asked Questions.” Urban Green Council, 23 Oct. 2019, www.urbangreencouncil.org/content/nyc-building-emissions-law-frequently-asked-questions.
- CodeGreen. “NYC Carbon Emissions Bill Passed into Law – ‘Local Law 97’ – What It Means for Commercial Building Owners.” CodeGreen Solutions, 16 Oct. 2019, codegreensolutions.com/nyc-carbon-emissions-bill-passed-into-law-local-law-97-what-it-means-for-commercial-building-owners/