Delay of Seattle's Cleaner Buildings Plan Disappoints Climate Groups
Friday, September 8, 2023
The wait to curb emissions from Seattle buildings has gone on long enough, climate groups say.
The Seattle City Council is considering Building Emissions Performance Standards, which would require the city's biggest buildings to cut their climate pollution completely by 2045. Apartments would have a 2050 deadline.
Jess Wallach, campaigns co-director for 350 Seattle, said buildings are the second largest source of carbon emissions in the city, but this policy has been delayed and watered down over the past two years.
"This is an opportunity to ensure that the biggest buildings in Seattle, which are by and large owned by wealthy corporations and real estate giants, are on track for a just transition to move their buildings off of fossil fuels and onto Seattle's clean-energy grid," he said.
A report recently released by 350 Seattle found almost none of the largest buildings in Seattle is owned by individuals or families and that about half are owned by private entities based outside the city. Building owners have said the plan is too costly.
Wallach said the city council was going to vote on the standards in September but has delayed it, likely until the beginning of next year.
Deepa Sivarajan, Washington local policy manager for Climate Solutions, said Seattle is facing increased threats from climate change, including hotter summers, and noted that transitioning away from fossil-fuel use will help the city build climate resiliency and lower utility costs.
"So many of our buildings are not air conditioned in Seattle," she said, "and electric heat pumps, which are the most cost-effective and energy-efficient solution when you're switching over from a fossil fuel to electricity - they provide heating and cooling together."
The state of Washington has passed its own energy-efficiency standard for buildings. However, Wallach said rather than duplicating those rules, Seattle's standards would increase their effectiveness.
"Seattle's policy is going to help ensure that the state-level policy is not only implemented here but actually goes further and faster and more successfully," he said, "and in that way we can be a model for other cities around Washington."
The Building Emissions Performance Standards would reduce Seattle building emissions 27% by 2050, according to the city.
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