Cities and states should mandate retrofits of inefficient buildings in order to meet the climate crisis, according to a new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Jurisdictions can require buildings to meet standards that cap their energy use or carbon emissions, the report says. If applied to two-thirds of existing buildings, these standards could reduce carbon emissions in 2050 by more than current annual emissions from all buildings, power plants, and vehicles in New York State. At current rates, however, most offices and homes will not be retrofitted for decades or even centuries.
“We have lots of good voluntary programs that help building owners improve energy efficiency, but the truth is they’re just not nearly enough when you look at the climate math,” said Steven Nadel, report co-author and executive director of ACEEE. “Most buildings today are going to be in use for decades to come. If we don’t put any limits on the carbon they’re responsible for, we’ll be locking in terrible climate impacts. Building performance standards are an effective response because policymakers set overall limits and let the building owners decide which upgrades they’re going to implement to meet them.”
The report calls on jurisdictions that set such policies to devote resources to educating building owners and managers, providing technical assistance, offering financing and incentives, and ensuring effective enforcement.