Heating and powering our homes and businesses generates a substantial amount of our climate-changing pollution; our built environment is a major contributor to global warming. If our homes and buildings were carbon-free and energy efficient, we would significantly reduce our climate pollution, drastically cut energy costs for owners and renters, and improve air quality where we live and work.
For example, in Washington State, emissions from buildings are growing at a faster rate than any other source of carbon pollution, with this increase largely attributable to the use of fossil gas in homes and buildings. Combusting fossil gas in homes and buildings is not only a significant contributor to climate change, but also poses significant health risks for our communities, children, and other vulnerable populations.
Indoor air quality issues are particularly concentrated for low-income residents in smaller units with poor ventilation. Communities of color are already disproportionately impacted by outdoor air pollution, and should not continue to be disproportionately harmed by poor indoor air quality as well. Gas appliances also worsen our outdoor air quality. For example, California’s residential appliances releasing more than two times as many NOx emissions as all of their gas power plants combined, and commercial gas appliances releasing just as much NOx pollution as all of California’s cars.
Many cities in the region and around the country are increasingly looking at ensuring all new buildings are electric as a key cost-effective pathway for achieving their local or state greenhouse emissions goals. Electrifying buildings is critical to addressing climate change, but it is also achievable, affordable, safe, and creates a more resilient energy system.
We are working with partners to move toward electrifying our buildings for heating, cooling and cooking. We can also construct homes and buildings that get all their energy from sustainable sources, and even produce as much energy as they use — net zero energy buildings.
Global warming has not paused to respect social distancing during these ‘corona times.’ However, in early March, Oregon Governor Kate Brown delivered one of the country's strongest Executive Orders on climate in early March, now called the “Oregon Climate Action Plan.”
Climate policy is not a single undertaking. We need many solutions working together, building on the success of clean electricity to end our reliance on fossil fuels in our buildings and our transportation.
Mitigating climate change requires holistic action across all sectors of our society. The good news is that actions that reduce our carbon emissions often have positive benefits on other aspects of our communities and economy. This is why we’re excited to support the Clean Buildings Package of legislation in Washington State.
The City of Portland is accepting comments on a draft policy to measure the energy efficiency of homes, as part of a long-term strategy to increase energy efficiency, reduce homeowner costs, and to curb a major source of carbon emissions.
SEIU votes to make climate action a priority, California tests zero-net-energy homes, Australian coal CEOs defect to solar and energy efficiency, and more news of the week in climate and clean energy.