US Can Cut Emissions 34% With Improvements to Building Efficiency – Report

A comprehensive plan to make our nation’s buildings more efficient by 2030 could save enough energy to power all of our nation’s cars, homes and businesses for a year and a half while saving Americans more than $500 billion, according to a new report by Environment America. 

By renovating old buildings and ensuring that new ones use 50% less energy within ten years and generate as much energy as they use by 2030, we can cut U.S. global warming emissions by at least 34% by 2050, the report states.

"Aggressively confronting the building sector is the key to successfully addressing the economy, climate change and energy independence", said Ed Mazria, Executive Director of Architecture 2030; whose call to make all new buildings use zero energy by 2030 has been embraced by President Obama, the nation’s mayors, and a number of governors. 

Nearly half of America’s energy–and 10% of the energy used in the world–goes towards powering our buildings, and much of that energy is wasted.  Buildings account for 40% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global warming. Building a Better Future: Moving Toward Zero Pollution with Highly Efficient Homes and Businesses outlines policy steps that local and state officials and the federal government can take to significantly cut energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with energy efficiency in buildings,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director for Environment America. “Shortsighted builders are being penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to investments in the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. They should not be allowed to pass the cost of higher energy bills and excess pollution onto future generations.”

The report calls for a comprehensive plan to make our nation’s buildings more efficient including:

  • Upgrading and enforcing building energy codes to require 30% more efficiency by 2012 and 50% more efficiency by 2018, and have all new buildings and substantial renovations meet these codes
  • Setting codes to have all new buildings be zero-net energy by 2030 through a combination of energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy
  • Stimulating investments in energy efficiency retrofits in all existing commercial and residential buildings before 2030.

The report illustrates the scale of reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that can be achieved by adopting these measures, including:

  • Saving 144 quadrillion BTU, or enough energy to power all of America’s homes, businesses, cars, and power plants for a year and a half
  • Avoiding a total 11.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, nearly equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of the U.S. and China combined
  • Paying back upfront costs and netting more than $542 billion in energy savings from renovating existing buildings

“Bold action to improve the efficiency of our nation’s buildings would go a long way toward meeting America’s energy challenges and stopping global warming. But, we must act now,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director for Environment America. “Congress should pass a strong bill that speeds the transition to a clean energy economy and maintains science-based pollution reduction targets.”

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