Daily digest: New York sues oil producers, Olafur Eliasson floods a museum, and more

Life Finds a Way

Daily digest: New York sues oil producers, Olafur Eliasson floods a museum, and more

To hit the emissions targets President Joe Biden disclosed today, there will need to be a fundamental shift in American energy production and conservation. (Pixabay/Courtesy Pexels)

Happy Thursday and happy Earth Day. To kick off the 41st year of celebrations, AN has rounded up the environmental, sustainability, and climate-change-minded news you need to know today; given the occasion, there’s plenty of it.

President Biden pledges to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030

President Biden announced today that the United States would double down on its commitment to the Paris Agreement and cut greenhouse gas emission in half by 2030. While Biden’s predecessor withdrew from the agreement, he was quick to rejoin after being sworn in this January. The official announcement comes only two days after the United Kingdom made a similar proclamation. But is it “too late?” Even cutting current emissions to half of what they were in 2005 would cut off the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which would still subject much of the planet to increased flooding, droughts, and food insecurity.

Biden has also proposed a carbon tariff, wherein the U.S. would tax goods coming from countries that haven’t pledged to similarly reduce their greenhouse gas output.

H/t to NBC News

Olafur Eliasson floods a Basel museum with pond water

If you think that’s scummy algae water flooding the halls of Basel, Switzerland’s Fondation Beyeler, you better think again (though it’s an easy mistake). Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has raised the pond outside of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop-designed museum and dyed the tide a neon green for his new Life installation.

Now the building itself sits empty save for the pervasive, site-specific show which runs inside after the removal of the institution’s glass facade and will remain open 24/7 through July. Visitors are invited to return at different times of the day to experience the effects of (or lack thereof) sunlight and wind on the installation, which is decked out in water lilies and ferns.

H/t to Artnet News

New York sues oil producers for “knowingly deceiving consumers”

The Earth Day announcements continue, as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city has sued “Exxon, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute for violating New York City’s Consumer Protection Law through false advertising and deceptive trade practices,” according to a release put out by the Mayor’s office this morning.

The suit alleges that oil companies willfully misled energy consumers looking for more sustainable options by greenwashing their practices and claiming that they were addressing climate change, when, in fact, they were contributing to it. The city is hoping to force the aforementioned companies to stop pushing false claims of sustainability and to claw back civil compensation for New Yorkers.

In semi-related news, Mayor de Blasio also announced that curbside composting would be coming back to the city starting in August. The popular program was cut as New York slashed its budget last year in response to the COVID pandemic.

The Gowanus rezoning officially begins

Eighty-two blocks of Gowanus, the Superfund-afflicted neighborhood in Brooklyn named for the canal that runs through the neighborhood (and which has been getting some attention from the EPA lately) are officially on track to be rezoned. The Department of City Planning (DCP) released its Draft Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood all the way back in 2018, which put higher-density housing, a unified waterfront plan, climate resiliency, and a cleanup of the titular canal. Unsurprisingly, the rezoning has been mired in lawsuits ever since.

That all changed this Monday, April 19, as State Supreme Court Judge Katherine Levine lifted a temporary restraining order and allowing the DCP to push Gowanus Neighborhood Plan to the start of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The restraining order had previously been in place since January as residents and community groups argued that the city’s limiting public hearings to Zoom was too restrictive; regular updates on the project must now be given at in-person, outdoor hearings.

Community groups such as Voice of Gowanus have vowed to keep fighting the plan.

H/t to City Limits

Phase one of the Pershing Square renewal can move ahead

Speaking of delayed projects, approvals for the first phase of Downtown Los Angeles’s Pershing Square overhaul were finally granted. Funding for the project, which would see French landscape architecture firm Agence Ter renovate the 155-year-old public park was secured last February, and construction was supposed to have begun in 2020 (but was obviously stymied by COVID).

Still, better late than never. On April 14, the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission granted approval for the $25 million first part of the plan to begin the project by replacing broken escalators, improving the pedestrian experience along Olive Street, and in phase two, removing an unused fountain. The overhaul had been broken into phases as the price of the landscape overhaul skyrocketed to north of $110 million.

H/t to Urbanize Los Angeles