Energy used in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings produces about 43 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, and these emissions are growing as Americans build more buildings and bigger homes. This makes the building sector the largest source of American emissions of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that cause climate change. Numerous stakeholders have begun acting to address the built environment's role in climate change, and it is imperative that their commitment to green principles and innovation increases so that the building sector can reduce its contribution to climate change.
During a speech at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado, Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, called on the building sector to play a more definitive role in America's efforts to address climate change. “Building standards need to be strengthened and we need to factor the very real threat of climate change into every new building that is constructed. Low or zero emission buildings should be our goal.” Ms. Claussen challenged the sector to provide the foundation for U.S. climate solutions. The speech was given in conjunction with the release of a new In-Brief by the Pew Center entitled “Building Solutions to Climate Change.”
The In-Brief describes how the built environment can make an important contribution to climate change mitigation while providing more livable spaces. It concludes that with current technologies and the expansion of a few key policies, significant reductions in greenhouse gases can be realized in the near term. Furthermore, combining technology research and development with clear and sustained climate and energy policies would drive more dramatic reductions over time.
Ms. Claussen implored the building community to take the lead in cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. “If we do it right, protecting the climate could mean new industries, new markets, and new jobs for localities, states, and nations that successfully position themselves as centers of innovation and technology development for a low-carbon world.”
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions site.