After an eight-year tenure as New York City’s climate czar, a tumultuous period in which the city faced Superstorm Sandy and plunged into a legal battle with fossil fuel companies, Daniel Zarrilli leaves his position.
A longtime city employee and ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Zarrilli said it was the “right time to move on and hand over the reins” as he resigned as New York City director. chief climate advisor and move on to an unspecified role that will also work on the climate crisis.
Zarrilli said one hope for a way out was for the Joe Biden administration to launch efforts to help New York City avoid the growing threat of rising sea levels and fierce storms.
An ambitious $ 119 billion plan to protect America’s largest city from flooding through a series of artificial islands with retractable gates that would erect a six-mile wall to stop rising stormwater was scrapped as an option by the federal government last year after Donald Trump called it “dumb” and advised New Yorkers to prepare “mops and buckets.”
“That longer-term study was canceled, but we are seeing more association with the federal government again,” Zarrilli said. “We are hopeful that the infrastructure bill will be an important climate bill that will benefit New York and cities around the world. It has been a remarkable whiplash; We were fighting the federal government for four years because of its reckless leadership. Now we will see more flood defenses in the city, we are already on our way with that. “
Zarrilli, a Staten Island-based engineer by training, has faced a stampede of weather problems since being appointed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the wake of Sandy, which plunged parts of New York City into darkness and devastated homes in the lowlands. -City apartments. A long-term strategy to make the city more resistant to the ravages of global warming was Elaborated, along with a new effort Address environmental injustices that make low-income people of color disproportionately suffer from the onset of heat waves and floods.
New York City also aligned itself with the goals of the Paris climate accord after Trump pulled the United States out of the accords. More recently the city forbidden installing gas appliances in new buildings as part of its goal of reducing global warming emissions by 40% in the next decade.
De Blasio said that Zarrilli had been “an invaluable member of my team” throughout this work. “We have charted a course toward a more sustainable and more resilient future and New York City is better off for its service,” added the Mayor.
Lately, New York City has tried to use its influence to directly fight the fossil fuel companies responsible for the climate crisis. A lawsuit that sued the big oil and gas companies for their role in the crisis eventually ran aground, but the city has done so ever since. stripped off its pension funds of billions of dollars in fossil fuel reserves and has sought to boost its investments in renewable energy.
“Dan did an extraordinary job helping coordinate efforts to get New York to divest its pension funds, and then take that idea and help spread it to other cities,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group 350.org. “It has been a really important part of the global climate fight in recent years.”
This city has faced some criticism that it should have gone further, especially when it comes to car use. De Blasio previously scrapped the idea of a congestion charge for drivers to help reduce traffic and emissions, despite research showing would help cut both, and initially he was reluctant making certain streets permanently closed to automobiles during the pandemic, a development that has allowed street food and walking to flourish.
Zarrilli admitted that “there was definitely more to do so New Yorkers don’t need cars in the future.“ But he said further change was inevitable if the city, among others, wanted to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
“We are in much better shape than after Sandy, but we have to say no to fossil fuels in all its forms throughout society,” he said. “We are well aware of our vulnerabilities to flooding and heat, but there are also opportunities to reinvent a clean energy future.
“Other cities look to New York City as a leader – being the media and cultural capital of the world gives us a wide audience. There is always a lot at stake here. After 17 years in the city, it has been an incredible career. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism