Earth Day has been going strong since 1970. This Saturday New York City unveiled another long-term climate plan to protect the environment and promote a green economy.

Mayor Eric Adams has started a few green initiatives, including planting trees in heat vulnerable areas as well as investing in 300 miles of nature trails in parks, solar panels on schools, energy efficient buildings for Local Law 97 compliance, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and more electric vehicles and weatherized bike storage. There’s also a big push for new training programs to grow green jobs, like tree climbers and pruners.

“I say over and over again, we have two mothers. One gave birth to us, the other sustained us. The same love and nurturing that we show the mom that gave birth to us, let’s show it to the one that sustains us,” said Adams at a series of Earth Day events this past weekend. “Mother Earth is here, is going to continue to be a part of who we are and we have to ensure that we give it the treatment that she deserves.”

PlaNYC is the Mayor’s sustainability plan. It aims to connect residents with nature and to show how investing in open spaces will improve equity, social resilience, and health. PlaNYC builds off of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s climate plan from 2007 that included congestion pricing. 

The city said this is the fifth in a series of climate plans set to be released every four years by local law, and was developed with input from a coalition of city agencies in the New York City Climate Cabinet and the Sustainability Advisory Board. 

Comptroller Brad Lander, at a separate press conference, said that 89% of the electricity that the city uses comes from burning fossil fuels. He said it’s necessary to convert resources entirely to clean and renewable energy in the future, not just for public spaces but for homeowners too. “We have seen in Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Ida what it looks like to lose New Yorkers’ lives to the climate crisis. And those events have cost us already billions of dollars,” said Lander.

Various city agencies, including Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), have already announced their contributions to combatting the climate crisis. 

The city received $10.1 million in federal grants to help electrify its vehicle fleet and has taken steps to reduce carbon emissions from food production and consumption. About 61,000 people are employed in energy efficiency industries across the five boroughs, and the city will spend about $20 to $30 billion in retrofitting buildings by 2030, according to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. 

Just recently, the Department of City Planning (DCP) began reviewing the first of 17 policy proposals the city made to modernize zoning regulations to support climate goals under the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality amendment. The rest of the proposals aim to remove barriers to building more greener energy buildings, transit, water, and waste systems.

“New Yorkers have been witnesses to the rising sea levels and more intense storms that climate change is bringing to the five boroughs, and the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality will help them do their part to slow this trend,” said DEP Commissioner and Chief Climate Officer Rohit T. Aggarwala in a statement. “By removing outdated regulations, we will help to expand the use of solar energy, electric vehicles, building electrification, and a circular economy for organic waste, all of which will help to slow climate change.”

For the most part, environmental community justice groups are hopeful about the strategy as looming state climate goals that need to be zero emissions by 2030, draw closer.

“As an organization rooted in the South Bronx, an epicenter of pollution and environmental justice, we are hopeful about PlaNYC and the benefits it would bring to frontline communities in the form of cleaner air, more open green space, and accessible green workforce trainings, among other things,” said South Bronx Unite Executive Director Arif Ullah. 

Sonal Jessel, director of policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said in a statement that she was excited about the plan, but also pointed out the city still has “dismal ratings for ozone levels in the air.” 

“This results from the fact that most sources of pollution, like industrial facilities and bus depots, have been placed in communities of color, turning them into sacrifice zones,” said Jessel.

RELATED: 10 things you can do now to help the planet

The state passed the Cumulative Impacts law, which cuts down on issuing permits for projects that would potentially pollute communities of color. Jessel, who advocated for the legislation, said it was unsurprising that Black and brown neighborhoods got hit hard by COVID-19 since many of the same communities have suffered “adverse health impacts of air pollution.”  

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also doubled down on her support for passing the Cumulative Impacts law to advance environmental justice, and recently advanced bills that will protect the state’s waterways from pollution and help support local efforts to remove lead pipes from New York’s water supply.

“New York is continuing to lead the nation on climate action and sustainable practices, with this package of legislation being the latest example of our commitment to the fight,” said Stewart-Cousins in a statement. “The investments we make in our communities today won’t matter if there isn’t a habitable planet tomorrow. That’s why we will continue moving the needle on environmental protection and preservation, so that generations from now, New Yorkers can still live safely in the places they call home.”

Joshi additionally advocated for the passage of the Waste Reduction Act. The state needs to make manufacturers responsible for reducing waste and increasing the recyclability of packaging so that costs don’t fall back onto taxpayers in the city, she said.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting

[Updated April 27]

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