A Blueprint for Ambitious Congressional Action on Climate

July 9, 2020 | Cliff Majersik

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released a sprawling 538-page blueprint for climate action. The proposal is more ambitious than any legislation seriously considered by Congress in a decade. It calls for a price on carbon and addresses every aspect of the American economy, calling for a transition to 100% net zero carbon in electricity by 2040 and to 100% electric cars by 2035. The report also responds to our current moment, by centering the needs of the frontline communities most impacted by climate change and pollution and by emphasizing the value of clean energy and climate investments to help the economy recover in the short- and long-term.  

The report recognizes the critical role buildings play in this energy transformation and calls for action on multiple fronts, including in areas where IMT is leading.

  • The report supports the SAVE Act, a pending bill to improve access to financing for energy efficiency and address a blind spot in mortgage underwriting by accounting for homes’ energy costs
  • The report calls for Congress to incentivize states and local governments to adopt, implement, and enforce updated building energy codes, with the goal of all jurisdictions adopting a net-zero-emission code by 2030.
  • The report calls for Congress to establish a national energy benchmarking and transparency requirement for all commercial buildings by leveraging existing federal tools. Additionally, the report advises Congress to take complementary steps including improving access to utility data and creating a publicly accessible database on building energy use.
  • The report cites building performance standards in the District of Columbia, New York City, and Washington State, and calls for a model building performance standard. It also asserts Congress should provide incentives and technical assistance for local jurisdictions to adopt such standards. (IMT is working with 10 jurisdictions considering adopting building performance standards and is developing a model ordinance.)

In the week since the report’s release, cancellation of plans to build an $8 billion gas pipeline and a court ruling blocking the Dakota Access pipeline have provided further momentum toward meaningful and urgent action on climate change.

Taken together, the report’s recommendations would give a huge boost to efforts to decarbonize American buildings, slash energy costs, enable decarbonization of the electric grid and improved grid reliability, stimulate private investment in private buildings, spur economic recovery, create jobs at every skill level, improve resilience, protect frontline communities, and put the country on path to transform our buildings from a climate liability to a climate asset.

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