The upstate New York city of Ithaca with a population of 30,000 aims to eliminate or offset all of its carbon emissions by 2030. Recognizing that buildings make up nearly 40 percent of US carbon emissions, the Green New Deal, adopted in 2019, plans to decarbonize thousands of privately owned commercial and residential buildings across the city through retrofitting measures: installing electric heating systems, solar panels and battery storage and reducing energy use and greening the electric grid buildings. The plan is to use private equity to fund and motivate building owners by providing low- or no-interest loans and quick implementation of sustainable technology. A $10 million loan loss reserve backed by New York State would act as a guarantee for lenders in case any borrower defaults. Low interest loans, utility bill savings and cash incentives will encourage participation by low-income families. “We’re talking about a people-first approach rather than just purely environmental,” says Luis Aguirre-Torres, Ithaca’s director of sustainability. And indications are that the people approve.

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