By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City would require thousands of buildings to become more energy efficient under a plan proposed on Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, part of a growing effort by the city to lead the fight against climate change.
Under the proposal, which needs city council approval, more than 14,000 buildings larger than 25,000 square feet would need to upgrade boilers, water heaters, windows and roofs to meet new fossil fuel caps by 2030.
The announcement came three months after Republican President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, a sweeping accord among virtually every country in the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"We're not waiting on President Trump and his cabinet of deniers to address this crisis," the Democratic mayor said, referring to those who deny scientific evidence of the manmade causes of global warning. "It is a sad statement that the actions of the president of the United States are putting his own hometown at risk."
Trump has said the Paris agreement would cost the United States trillions of dollars.
Hundreds of U.S. municipalities still plan to adhere to the Paris deal. New York has set a goal of reducing its 2005 levels of emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.
The buildings affected by de Blasio's proposal produce nearly a quarter of the city's emissions, the mayor said.
The cost of improvements could exceed $1 million each for large, older buildings, officials said. The plan calls for making low-interest loans available to owners of smaller buildings.
City officials said the energy savings for most buildings would pay for the improvements within five to 15 years.
The proposal could face opposition from the city's powerful real estate industry. John Banks, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry group, said the city's energy efficiency metric is flawed because it is based solely on a building's size, rather than how many occupants the structure may have.
"The city's goals could inadvertently promote buildings that use less overall energy without regard to how the energy is used," he said. "A trading floor with many terminals and employees might not meet targets, but an empty windowless building used for storage would meet the target."
Offenders would face escalating penalties based on size and energy use. A 1 million-square-foot building could be hit with a $2 million annual fine for failing to meet its target.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)