August 31, 2012

NYC Forms Climate Change Panels

The City Council passed legislation that would make two panels advising the city on the threats of global warming a permanent fixture of government, in an effort to continue Mr. Bloomberg’s environmental focus long after he’s gone. 

The bill,  approved 44-0, will “institutionalize and regularly convene” both a panel of scientists known as the New York City Panel on Climate Change and a task force of government agencies and partners from the energy, telecommunications and other private sectors in charge of recommending how the city should adapt to more frequent storms and heat waves. Under current projections by the scientific panel, sea levels around New York will rise nearly five feet by the end of the century, posing an increased risk of major and more frequent coastal flooding.
The two panels, which receive no pay, were convened by Mayor Bloomberg in 2008 to help fulfill the goals of his environmental agenda for the city, known as PlaNYC. James F. Gennaro, who chairs the council’s committee on environmental protection, said the legislation creates “an institutional government mechanism to assess the latest climate change science, plan for climate change impacts and implement adaptive strategies” and should serve as a model for other local and state governments.
The legislation broadens the responsibilities of the advisory bodies, including requiring the adaptation task force  to create an inventory of potential risks to vulnerable populations like the elderly and low-income residents of industrial areas where flooding also raises the risk of toxic spills. It requires the scientific advisers to meet at least twice a year to review the latest climate change data and to update their projections every three years. The task force is then required to submit its recommendations a year after projections are released.
“We want to make sure that the work of climate change becomes as much a part of city government as repairing pot holes,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn.  “We also want to make sure that PlaNYC remains a living document and a blueprint for the city.”


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