3 Cities Use Local Policy to Make Buildings More Efficient

Buildings – which require huge amounts of energy to power their operations – are responsible for an estimated 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. And buildings in dense metropolitan areas account for a large portion of those GHG emissions due to the way city dwellers live, work and travel. But several cities are using energy efficiency as a relatively fast, easy way to reduce energy consumption, pollution and GHG emissions, as well as to save money and improve quality of life for residents.
Although many local governments want to increase the efficiency of their city buildings, barriers stand in the way of energy-efficient upgrades. These barriers range from a lack of transparency in energy consumption to the "split-incentive" problem in which tenants don't share energy costs equally with their landlords.
In an attempt to solve some or all of these barriers, the following cities passed local laws and ordinances that promote energy efficiency:
In 2007, New York City rolled out a major sustainability effort called PlaNYC, which contained one of the most comprehensive sets of commercial building laws in the country under the Greater, Greener Buildings Plan. These laws are aimed at the city’s largest existing buildings, because they are responsible for 45% of citywide GHG emissions.
California – especially San Francisco – has long been a leader in promoting energy efficiency. After California passed a statewide benchmarking law in 2007, San Francisco sought to push even further with the Existing Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance.
In 2008, the Austin City Council passed the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure Ordinance as a part of reaching the goals stated in the city’s Climate Protection Plan, which is one of the most ambitious in the world.

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