How Native Governments & Communities Are Taking Motion to Get Fossil Fuels Out of Buildings

Throughout the US, 80 cities and counties have adopted insurance policies that require or encourage the transfer off fossil fuels to all-electric houses and buildings. As of August 2022, almost 28 million folks throughout 11 states reside in a jurisdiction the place native insurance policies favor fossil fuel-free, wholesome buildings. And the momentum behind these insurance policies retains constructing — dozens extra native governments have robust commitments to decarbonize their buildings inventory, which can quickly change into formal coverage.

Native Constructing Electrification Momentum at a Look. Supply: Constructing Decarbonization CoalitionUS Census BureauRMISierra Membership

This nationwide wave of motion is motivated by the quite a few advantages — by way of local weather, air high quality, well being, economics, resilience, and security — of shifting from fossil fuels to zero-emissions electrical home equipment.

Local weather

Methane fuel is now the most important supply of local weather air pollution in the US. Gasoline combustion in buildings produces a minimum of 10 p.c of the nation’s greenhouse fuel air pollution, and in dense city areas it’s usually a number one supply of local weather air pollution. Electrification is the one cost-effective pathway to decarbonize our buildings and keep away from the worst penalties of local weather change.

Air High quality

Fossil gas home equipment by releasing dangerous pollution like nitrogen oxides (NOx) that result in smog. The truth is, fuel home equipment emit greater than twice as a lot NOx as fuel energy vegetation in the US, regardless of consuming much less fuel. Lots of the identical states and areas with the worst smog air pollution even have elevated ranges of NOx emissions from home equipment. Electrification can get rid of this air pollution supply and assist us all breathe cleaner air. Be taught Extra.

Well being

Fossil gas extraction and equipment air pollution hurt public well being and disproportionately influence BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour) and low-income communities. As a consequence of systemic injustices, these communities have greater charges of sicknesses, like bronchial asthma, that may be triggered or exacerbated by equipment air pollution. Publicity to fossil gas equipment air pollution in the US led to over $65 billion in well being impacts in 2017. BIPOC communities are uncovered to just about twice as a lot positive particulate (PM2.5) air pollution from family fuel home equipment as White communities. These communities with heightened air pollution publicity needs to be prioritized within the transition to electrical home equipment.


Throughout the nation, all-electric single-family houses are less expensive for builders and builders than constructing houses that require fossil gas infrastructure. These price financial savings enable builders to provide extra market-rate and reasonably priced housing models and endure different worth fluctuations. A lot of those financial savings are created by foregoing expensive fuel pipelines — which may carry a price ticket as excessive as $15,000 per home.


With extra frequent excessive warmth waves, entry to air-con is a well being and security crucial for a lot of communities the world over. Many People — particularly BIPOC and low-income households — both lack entry to air-con or can’t afford to run it. Equipping houses with electrical warmth pumps, which offer extremely environment friendly heating and cooling, will assist households journey out harmful warmth waves.


Transmitting fuel by way of pipelines creates vital hearth and explosion dangers. Between 2010 and 2021, US fuel pipeline incidents that had been reported to the federal authorities, which make up solely a fraction of the entire, occurred as soon as each two days on common. Of the two,600 reported incidents, one-third resulted in fires and one-eighth in explosions. These incidents led to a complete of 122 deaths and 600 accidents, and so they price communities almost $4 billion.

Native Constructing Electrification Insurance policies and Case Research

Native governments throughout the nation are feeling the warmth and are keen to assist their residents and companies get off fossil fuels like fuel. With the assistance of native consultants, they’ve created a spread of coverage options, together with:

  • Constructing code amendments — Native constructing codes set necessities for brand new development and/or main renovations. Native governments can embrace incentives or necessities for electrical home equipment by way of ordinances or legal guidelines that amend the native or state constructing code. The home equipment and constructing sorts which might be coated can differ or be phased in over time, or constructing codes can require all-electric development for all new buildings.
  • Constructing efficiency requirements — A constructing efficiency customary, or BPS, units a efficiency goal {that a} constructing proprietor should meet over time. It might be an emissions goal, that means a constructing should cut back its complete air pollution under a sure threshold, or an power goal, that means a constructing should cut back its complete power utilization under a sure threshold by a specified date. Constructing house owners can select which upgrades to pursue to adjust to BPS, and electrifying home equipment is often the best choice because of the power and emissions financial savings that warmth pumps ship. These requirements usually apply to massive public, industrial, and multifamily buildings. Mannequin BPS embrace incentives and financing to assist with the retrofits, in addition to monetary penalties for noncompliance.

Native insurance policies to limit fuel growth and speed up clear power retrofits differ in type and element based mostly on the native context, illustrating a wealth of paths to get rid of local weather and air air pollution in houses and companies. Main examples of native motion prioritize the distinctive wants of low-income and traditionally marginalized communities whereas offering a transparent and decisive shift away from burning fossil fuels in buildings.

Under are six examples of native electrification insurance policies that had been designed with enter from key stakeholders and tailored to suit the native panorama.

New York Metropolis — Constructing code modification and BPS:

marketing campaign led by New York Communities for Change, New York Public Curiosity Analysis Group (NYPIRG), WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Meals & Water Watch, with the help of dozens of grassroots teams and allies, secured Native Regulation 154, which amends NYC’s constructing code to require all-electric new development in all buildings. New York Metropolis’s modification takes a phased method, requiring all-electric for brand new low-rise buildings in 2024 and for taller buildings in 2027. This legislation builds on earlier commitments to restrict emissions in buildings bigger than 25,000 sq. ft. With Native Regulation 154, New York Metropolis would be the largest metropolis on this planet to section fossil fuels out of recent development beginning in 2024. Local weather change impacts and air air pollution that stems from burning fossil fuels in buildings has been proven to disproportionately burden low-income communities and communities of colour. By guaranteeing that no extra buildings that use fossil fuels are constructed, the town is taking a major first step in advancing environmental justice.

Boston — Constructing Efficiency Customary with EJ Fund:

Greater than 80 local people members and organizations, together with ACEMetropolis Life/Vida Urbana, and Chinese language Progressive Affiliation, and Clear Water Motion helped design Boston’s constructing efficiency customary for industrial and multifamily buildings with a paired environmental justice fund. Boston’s Constructing Emission Discount and Disclosure Ordinance limits carbon emissions from massive, current industrial and multifamily buildings with various compliance dates based mostly on constructing measurement. Constructing house owners that fail to conform should pay a price to a fund that invests in environmental justice populations which might be most affected by local weather air pollution. This community-led compliance resolution changed conventional carbon offsets, which many local people teams criticized as a false resolution that enables air pollution to persist. Whereas there are nonetheless critics of the coverage, it gives a superb instance of neighborhood members discovering frequent floor whereas actively testing out an answer to drive local weather fairness.

Denver — Constructing Efficiency Customary:

Twenty-five various stakeholders, together with the Pipefitters Native Union, native IBEW union, Vitality Outreach Colorado, and Denver Housing Authority, joined a job pressure to assist Denver design a constructing efficiency customary for industrial and multifamily buildings. Denver’s BPS limits the power use in current industrial and multifamily buildings over 25,000 sq. ft and requires warmth pumps for house and water heating as soon as present home equipment meet their finish of life. The coverage grew out of a two-year stakeholder engagement course of that included neighborhood engagement with individualized outreach from job pressure members. The duty pressure additionally advisable a gross sales tax, which voters have accepted, to lift $40 million a 12 months for a local weather safety fund, with a minimum of half of the funds benefiting BIPOC and underresourced communities. Denver’s method illustrates how a various multistakeholder effort can foster distinctive native options.

San Francisco — Constructing Code Modification with Water Reuse Ordinance:

A broad set of stakeholders, together with fairness advocate Emerald Cities Collaborative and labor group San Francisco Native 38 Plumbers and Pipefitters, led a job pressure that knowledgeable the town’s constructing code modification requiring all-electric new development in all buildings. The duty pressure solicited enter from over 400 members of the general public over six months to tell the county’s method to zero-emissions new development. In response to workforce feedback, the county’s all-electric new development coverage was handed alongside a dedication to guage alternatives to develop necessities for recycled water on-site — a essential resolution for drought-prone areas. A water reuse requirement handed the next 12 months. Whereas over 50 different native governments in California have enacted comparable constructing code insurance policies, San Francisco stands out due to its broad neighborhood engagement effort, particularly with labor.

Seattle — New Building Code and Heating Oil Tax:

Native advocates together with Emerald Cities CollaborativeShift Zero, and Washington Physicians for Social Accountability, in addition to labor teams equivalent to MLK Labor Council, supported Seattle’s constructing code modification requiring electrical house and water heating in new industrial, massive multifamily, and municipal buildings. Seattle’s constructing code created a blueprint for state motion the place advocates helped the Washington State Constructing Code Council go the primary statewide mandate on warmth pump house heating in new industrial buildings. Town additionally handed an ordinance that created a heating oil tax that will increase over time, with the income used to create a clear electrical warmth pump incentive program paired with weatherization for low-income houses. The heating oil ordinance is becoming for the native panorama, as 10 p.c of Seattle’s single-family houses depend on heating oil, and electrifying can cut back each prices and emissions for these houses.

Although not lively coverage, laws motions can function a significant device to decide to equitable processes and future insurance policies, as exemplified by Los Angeles under.

Los Angeles* — Vitality Justice and New Building Motions:

Environmental and financial justice coalitions LEAP and RePower LA, that are anchored by teams equivalent to PSR-LA, LAANE, SCOPECBE, and Pacoima Stunning, labored with the town of Los Angeles to go two motions that decide to equitable electrification processes and insurance policies. First, LA handed an power justice movement with power and housing justice rules to include in native constructing decarbonization efforts. The movement additionally initiated a neighborhood engagement course of to make sure that enter from weak and frontline communities informs equitable insurance policies. Months later, the town handed a new development movement to organize an ordinance for all-electric new development beginning in 2023. The event of constructing decarbonization coverage in LA stands out as a result of advocates for environmental justice, housing, renters’ rights, and labor are actively working collectively and with determination makers to form the way forward for their metropolis.

*Not counted in our complete till closing binding regulation is adopted.

These examples illustrate the big selection of equitable applications and insurance policies that may be created when any native authorities companions with its communities and stakeholders to develop groundbreaking options. For a complete record of native constructing electrification insurance policies, go to this tracker from Constructing Decarbonization Coalition.

With lower than eight years to chop nationwide constructing emissions in half, we want all fingers on deck to reap the much-needed local weather, well being, and affordability advantages from transitioning off fuel. Cities and counties have the facility to affect constructing practices domestically, and so they should additionally use their political heft to make state and federal insurance policies local weather and equity-aligned.

By Leah Louis-Prescott, Rachel Golden

© 2021 Rocky Mountain Institute. Printed with permission. Initially posted on RMI Outlet.


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