New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced a new climate leadership team that will focus on environmental protection and climate justice.
Rohit T. Aggarwala was appointed as Chief Climate Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Aggarwala led the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability under Mayor Bloomberg, founded the environmental grantmaking programme at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and served as president of the Board of Directors of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. He was also part of the founding team at Sidewalk Labs, an urban tech spinout that was recently folded back into Google. More recently, Aggarwala was a senior urban tech fellow at the Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech.
The current DEP commissioner, Vincent Sapienza, will serve as the chief operations officer of the DEP.
Kizzy Charles-Guzman, who has worked for the city for 15 years and held several senior climate-focused roles, was named as executive director of the new Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ).
The MOCEJ will consolidate the Office of Climate Resiliency and the Office of Climate and Sustainability, and incorporate the Office of Environmental Coordination and the Office of Environmental Remediation.
“It is evident to anyone who opens their eyes that we are in the midst of a climate crisis in this city and around the world, so it’s time to think outside the box and determine how we can handle the crisis before it’s too late,” said Mayor Adams. “This past year alone, we have experienced extreme weather anomalies and rising sea levels, which have endangered New Yorkers’ lives, their homes, and their livelihoods. The remnants of these different calamities are still being repaired to this day, but my administration is committed to transforming the city’s quality of life and fighting for environmental justice for all New Yorkers, and this team is exactly who will get the job done.”
Adams said he wants to turn “plans into progress and making sure that progress is felt in every community across the city,” noting the disproportionate effect climate impacts can have on low-income communities and people of colour.
“Making progress on climate requires not only good policies but also driving resilience, decarbonisation, and environmental justice into daily city operations,” said Rohit T. Aggarwala.
Climate priorities outlined by the mayor included building 100 megawatts of solar energy on top of schools, libraries, community centres and other municipal buildings; expanding citywide resiliency projects and infrastructure; and completing the city’s first comprehensive study of environmental justice.
In his role at Cornell Tech, Aggarwala was the lead author on the recent Rebooting NYC report. Among the publication’s recommendations was to accelerate renewable energy adoption in the city by promoting battery energy storage.
Adams recently took a similar consolidation approach to the New York’s technology agencies, bringing together several departments into a new Office of Technology and Innovation, led by the city’s new Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Matthew Fraser.
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