How The Big Apple is taking on the carbon footprint from buildings


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In this special New York Climate Week episode of the ESG Insider podcast, we explore how the built environment – new building construction plus existing offices, apartment blocks, airports and other structures – is responsible for nearly 40% of all global carbon dioxide emissions, and what it will take to decarbonize this vast sector.

In the episode, we interview three experts on the subject: Mark Reynolds, CEO of Mace Group, a large construction company focused on making buildings more sustainable; John Mandyck, CEO of a non-profit in New York City called Urban Green Council; and Dana Schneider, director of energy and sustainability at the Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the Empire State Building in New York, an iconic structure that has made significant headway in lowering its carbon footprint.

Lowering the carbon footprint of the built environment is a massive task. Although building emissions reached their highest level in 2019, many cities have not yet embarked on sizable decarbonization plans. Some landlords could have to spend millions to retrofit buildings. Construction companies are under pressure to use less carbon-intensive materials. Homeowners are being prodded to spend money to make homes energy efficient. And investors with face the challenge of assessing the transition risk.

That helps to explain why at least three panel discussions at this week’s NY Climate Week were devoted to carbon emissions from the built environment, and why the big UN COP26 climate conference this fall will similarly dedicate an entire day to the subject.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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