A new report out Tuesday reveals that investing $500 billion in making U.S. residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient would benefit the planet, save money, and create millions of jobs.
“This substantial investment would reap dramatic economic benefits, create good jobs that foster a fair and just transition to clean energy, reduce energy use, and save money—all while reducing climate emissions.”
—Food & Water Watch
“Residential and commercial buildings are considerable power hogs, accounting for 39 percent of U.S. energy use, more than either the industrial or transportation sectors,” explains the environmental group Food & Water Watch in Building Climate Justice: Investing in Energy Efficiency for a Fair and Just Transition (pdf).
While acknowledging scientists’ increasingly urgent warnings about the necessity of rapidly transitioning global energy systems away from fossil fuels in favor of clean renewables like solar and wind, the report focuses on the far-reaching and positive consequences of improving the energy efficiency of buildings across the country.
Food & Water Watch lays out the impact of investing about $33.3 billion a year in a nationwide initiative from 2020 to 2035. That funding, along with “aggressive and robust energy efficiency policies,” would be complementary to broader efforts designed to curb planet-warming emissions and prevent climate catastrophe.
Researchers found that “this substantial investment would reap dramatic economic benefits, create good jobs that foster a fair and just transition to clean energy, reduce energy use, and save money—all while reducing climate emissions.”
Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter tied the report’s recommendations to the national discussion about climate policies, including the Green New Deal resolution introduced earlier this year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
“With all the talk about a Green New Deal, one critical piece of any effective climate policy that has largely been left out of the conversation is energy efficiency,” Hauter said. “It is the low-hanging fruit in terms of technological feasibility and cost-benefit gain.”
“Energy efficiency has enormous potential to create millions of jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and save American families money on their energy bills—a real win-win-win.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
Responding to the report, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement from Food & Water Watch, “Energy efficiency has enormous potential to create millions of jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and save American families money on their energy bills—a real win-win-win.”
Sanders, a cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential race, added, “We must immediately come together to take bold action to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”
By 2035, building upgrades would cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 million metric tons, compared with current projections, and cumulatively reduce utility bills by an estimated $1.3 trillion, according to the report.