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Biden to require new federal buildings to slash greenhouse gas emissions

A view of sunset in the evening hours in the United States Capitol, Washington D.C., on December 02, 2022.

Celal Gunes | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled a new building performance standard that would require federal agencies to slash energy use and electrify equipment and appliances in 30% of their building space by the end of the decade.

The move is the latest push by the White House to curb fossil fuel use in residential and commercial buildings, which comprise about 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Energy used in federal buildings for space heating, water heating, cooking and other needs comprise more than 25% of federal emissions, the White House said.

The agency estimates that the reductions requirements would save $8 million each year in upfront equipment costs and would reduce carbon emissions from federal buildings by 1.86 million metric tons and methane emissions by 22.8 thousand tons over the next 30 years — roughly equivalent to the emissions generated by nearly 300,000 homes in one year.

Officials said the standard would move forward President Joe Biden’s plan to decarbonize the economy by 2050 and achieve a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035.

The standard for federal buildings comes as a growing number of cities have voted to curb gas consumption in buildings.

For instance, a few dozen cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose in California; Cambridge, Mass.; and Seattle, have moved to ban natural gas hook ups in some new buildings to combat climate-warming emissions.

“There is a growing and expanding supply chain for the very products that help our buildings become more efficient and more sustainable,” White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters on Wednesday.

The Department of Energy also highlighted its proposed rulemaking to electrify new federal buildings and buildings undergoing major renovations. The agency’s goal is to require all new buildings to lower on-site emissions by 90% compared to 2003 levels by 2025 and fully decarbonize those buildings in 2030.  

“We would be setting a gold standard for new construction across America,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said during the Wednesday briefing.

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