The fastest and cheapest way to cut deeply into CO2 emissions is to overhaul old buildings for efficiency and build new ones green from the start. Turns out that buildings are responsible for more than one-third of North America's CO2 emissions, says a new report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Promoting green design, construction, renovation and operation of buildings could cut North American building emissions from more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 annually to 500 megatons. Rapid deployment of emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could bring about these savings by 2030.
Currently, green buildings routinely reduce energy usage by 30 to 50 percent over conventional buildings. The most efficient now outperform them by more than 70 percent. The authors recommend ways to accelerate greening our homes and offices, calling upon government, industry and nongovernmental leaders to:
Create national, multi-stakeholder task forces for achieving a vision of green building in North America • Support the creation of a North American set of principles and planning tools for green building • Set clear targets to achieve the most rapid possible adoption of green building in North America, including aggressive targets for carbon-neutral or net zero-energy buildings, together with performance monitoring to track progress towards these targets • Enhance ongoing or new support for green building, including efforts to promote private sector investment and proper valuation methods • Increase knowledge of green building through research and development, capacity building, and the use of labels and disclosures on green building performance.
We need some national vision here. Yet another reason why 308 days, 19 hours, 37 minutes, and 1 second left (as of this writing) can't fly by fast enough.
Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.