Building Leadership: Gov. Newsom’s climate, housing and social justice solution (Post #1 in the Building Leadership Series)Read Now
Set a goal and achieve it.
It’s the most basic premise in any business or self-help guide on how to succeed.
And in California, we’ve set some lofty climate goals. We said we would get back to 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and we did it -- four years early.
While California should celebrate its climate achievements so far, reaching the next phase of emissions cuts will be more difficult … and more exciting. Successfully rising to the challenge will require a statewide, cross-sector, all-hands-on-deck effort led by an inspired Governor Newsom.
Already in California we’ve made great progress in our globally-leading utility and renewable energy sectors. But the fact is, supply-side levers are easier to pull than the mass market of the demand-side. We must now inspire Californians to take the clean energy revolution into their homes and workplaces, by moving away from gas in favor of clean, electricity.
The benefits to transforming fossil-fuel powered buildings to clean, electric ones will be enormous. Not only will we tackle the source of nearly 25 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, we will also cut the potent planet-warming methane emissions that are released from gas operations.
It is time to transform California’s two favorite things, our homes and our cars, into something greater: a housing affordability, job-creating, economy-growing, income-inequality reducing, public health-improving, climate crisis-solving, global leadership opportunity. The potential is there, we just need solid leadership that unlocks California’s ingenuity.
Within transportation we have an enormous challenge with a clear pathway: rapidly increase consumer demand for, and access to, low- and zero-emission technology, significantly expand charging infrastructure and successful incentive programs to prime the consumer pump (pun intended).
However, California’s buildings do not share that clear pathway, and herein lies the opportunity: the time has never been better to lead on buildings and Gavin Newsom is an ideal leader for this time and topic.
For the Gov. elect is a rare leader who can weave the housing crisis, income inequality and the climate crisis together into mutually-beneficial solutions to California’s greatest challenges.
Moving the state beyond fossil-fuel powered buildings will help lower the cost of new homes, empowering tens of thousands more families to afford their own home and realize the California dream. Moving buildings beyond fossil fuels will be one of the greatest job improvement and creation opportunities available in the climate solution space. It will relieve the burden of high energy bills, allowing hard-working families to spend more of their money on other household needs. Eliminating fossil-fuels from California’s buildings will create more clean air, reducing toxic air pollution in some of our most vulnerable communities. Lastly, creating clean energy buildings could be our most important climate solution export and a platform Governor Newsom can use to empower other leaders around the world.
In this blog series we will look at how Gov. Newsom can leave his mark on California's communities: why the moment is right for clean energy buildings, how Governor Newsom can carve out leadership in this space, and what the co-benefits of healthy buildings are for the climate, economy, the housing crisis, poverty, and public health.
The importance of leadership
California is the most populous state in the United States, the fifth largest economy on the planet, and a global leader in the fight against climate change and air pollution. California's ability to successfully decarbonize our buildings will provide a powerful example to the rest of the country and the world. Across the globe, buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. If we get this right in California, we provide a model for every other economy, we create new technologies and industries for clean energy buildings like we did for renewable energy and we export the hard and soft products and knowledge to help other governments with their most vexing climate challenge. Countries like China are already modeling programs (such as their electric car mandate) on California's leadership. We can do even more with buildings.
In our next post, we'll discuss how decarbonizing our building stock will mitigate not just emissions but also the housing crisis.
fPanama Bartholomy is the Director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition.