City of Yes

Carbon Neutrality

City skyline from a rooftop building
Source: Mayor’s Photography Office

City of Carbon Neutrality will modernize our city’s zoning regulations to support our climate goals.

The world is facing a climate emergency. To respond, cities across the globe — including New York City — have set ambitious goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve our goals by 2050, we need to transform our energy grid, retrofit our buildings, and shift to electric vehicles, transit and other modes.

The Department of City Planning (NYC Planning) is working with the Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ) on this proposal to clear the way for the many green investments needed in our buildings.

What would City of Carbon Neutrality do?

Zoning today effectively limits the amount of rooftop that can be covered by solar panels. This unnecessarily limits the ability to generate solar energy and for building owners to invest in clean, low-cost power. Current rules also limit grid-supporting energy storage, community solar, micro-grids, and other solutions that are an essential part of our clean energy future.

City of Carbon Neutrality would support New York’s ambitious goals for installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage systems throughout the city, by addressing these and other related issues.

In recent years, the NYC Construction Codes have been updated to include stringent requirements on energy efficiency and building performance. In some instances zoning regulations stand in the way of the solutions buildings need to use to meet these standards.

City of Carbon Neutrality would ensure zoning supports the next generation of high-performance construction and renovation.

Electric Vehicle Charging - Source: Department of Transportation
Electric Vehicle Charging
Source: Department of Transportation

New York has ambitious goals for electrifying its transportation sector, but recent studies show it is significantly behind other major U.S. cities. Of the city’s 1.9 million private vehicles, less than 1% (approximately 12,500) are zero-emission vehicles, and there are very limited public locations available to charge electric vehicles.

City of Carbon Neutrality will respond to these challenges by removing restrictions that limit the placement of charging infrastructure.

An example of a bioswale
An example of a bioswale

Improving the city’s waste stream is key to achieving carbon neutrality. This will require a substantial reduction in the amount of waste being sent to landfills. It will also require a reduction in the amount of stormwater that gets sent to our wastewater treatment plants.

City of Carbon Neutrality would help support these efforts by clarifying and simplifying existing regulations.

Why is this initiative needed?

Bold changes are needed to meet our ambitious climate goals. We must update our regulations to reflect the latest developments in our city’s climate response and evolving technologies that can help us achieve these goals, which include:

  • In 2016, the City introduced “80x50,” setting an ambitious target of 80% carbon emission reduction by 2050.
  • The Paris Climate Agreement of 2016 established a goal of cutting emissions to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius.
  • In 2019, the City enacted the Climate Mobilization Act, containing some of the strictest laws in the nation. Among other things, it will require many large buildings to cut their carbon emissions or face significant fines.
  • In 2020, the City adopted a more stringent energy code to enhance efficiency and building performance for new development.
  • Architects and engineers working on sustainable building projects have identified many ways to vastly step up our Zone Green rules.

Updating Zone Green

Zone Green
In 2012, NYC Planning proposed a set of sustainability-related zoning changes titled Zone Green. These changes set the stage for early adoption of solar, wind, and electric vehicle charging, and allowed home- and building-owners to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency by adding insulation or sun screening devices.

It's now been over ten years since Zone Green became law. City of Carbon Neutrality will update these rules with the latest climate, architectural, and engineering knowledge.

Contact Us

NYC Planning is researching these topics and holding early conversations with advocates, planners, designers, and other community members. We will hold conversations with community organizations including Community Boards starting in early fall.

To request a briefing for your organization, or to reach out with any other questions about this proposal ask questions, please contact

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