New York Will Cut Use of Tropical Hardwoods by 20 Percent

NEW YORK, New York, February 13, 2008 (ENS) – During an address to the UN General Assembly Monday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to reduce the city’s consumption of tropical hardwoods to benefit the climate. The mayor called tropical deforestation an “ecological calamity – one with huge global warming implications.”

Bloomberg was speaking at a two-day UN special debate and meeting on climate change. Introducing the mayor, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged participants to build on the momentum generated by the breakthrough at last December’s UN Climate Change Conference held in Bali, Indonesia, where 187 countries agreed to launch a two-year process of formal negotiations on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Ban pointed out that there is a “silver lining” to climate change in the form of the opportunity for cooperation in a “global, collective, inclusive and low-carbon approach to growth and development.”

The conference in Bali highlighted the fact that tropical deforestation accounts for some 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Mayor Bloomberg told UN delegates.

“New York, like many other cities, uses tropical hardwoods – in our case, for park benches, ferry landings, our extensive beach boardwalks, and also for the walkway on the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge,” Bloomberg said.

Tropical hardwood walkway spans the
Brooklyn Bridge (Photo credit unknown)

“Currently, we purchase more than $1 million a year of such hardwoods, making us one of the largest consumers of hardwoods in North America, said the mayor.

“Nevertheless, I made a commitment in Bali that we would assess New York City’s use of these hardwoods and develop an ambitious and achievable strategy to reduce it,” he said. “And here is the result.”

“Our city’s agencies will immediately reduce their use of tropical hardwoods by 20 percent,” Bloomberg said. “They will do that by specifying domestic wood, recycled plastic lumber, and other materials in the design of park benches and other construction projects. We are also going to undertake serious, long-term studies of the design of our boardwalks and ferry piers to see what alternatives we can use when these structures have to be replaced. And from now on we will also refrain from designing new boardwalks with tropical hardwoods.”

“The physical properties of these hardwoods, especially their durability and resistance to rot, make them ideal for such uses. And, as any engineer will tell you, once you’ve designed a structure for one material, you just can’t use a replacement; you’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

To accompany Bloomberg’s remarks, the Mayor’s Office released the “Tropical Hardwood Reduction Report,” which was developed over the past 60 days by a working group made up of city agencies and the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.

The report commits the city to avoiding tropical hardwoods for any new waterfront promenades. To further reduce the city’s use of tropical hardwoods in the long-term in a safe and cost-effective way, the report outlines a series of studies that will be done to evaluate alternative designs and materials for marine transfer stations, Brooklyn Bridge Promenade, maintenance of existing boardwalks, and Staten Island Ferry docks.

To advance the work of fighting global warming, Mayor Bloomberg asked the delegates to encourage the world’s cities to be “part of the next and critical phase of international action.”

To establish the preconditions for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, Mayor Bloomberg says the United States as well as the large developing countries must take action.

“I believe, is that the United States, which leads the world in greenhouse gas production, must finally set real and binding carbon reduction targets,” the mayor said. As long as there is no penalty or cost involved in producing greenhouse gases, there will be no incentive to meet such targets. And for that reason, I believe the U.S. should enact a tax on carbon emissions.”

“Now, others advocate a cap-and-trade system – an approach that I believe would be less direct and therefore less successful. But either alternative would be superior to our current inadequate status quo,” Bloomberg said. “The carbon reduction targets that the U.S. should set must be ambitious but also achievable.”

Bloomberg said the experience of New York City is “instructive.” Ten months ago, the city adopted a set of long-term sustainability goals, the PlaNYC, which was highlighted in the UN Development Program’s Human Development Report for 2007-2008.

“Based on a careful assessment of what existing technology makes feasible, we determined that New York City can shrink our carbon footprint 30 percent from current levels by the year 2030,” the mayor said.

“Recent authoritative studies indicate that the U.S. could do something very close to that, too,” he said, “and at nearly zero net cost, because so many of the energy efficiency strategies involved actually save money in the long run.”

Bloomberg concluded by urging the UN delegates to let the cities of the world be active participants in the work of addressing climate change.

It was said in medieval times, Bloomberg quoted, that “city air is freer,” because cities liberated people from the bonds of feudalism.

“Cities unlocked human creativity and fired human imaginations,” he said. “Now cities can help make air not only freer, but also healthier, for everyone who inhabits our globe.”

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