The places we live and work are some of the greatest contributors to climate change. Buildings generate over half of the total greenhouse gas emissions for most cities, and in some cities, like London and Paris, it’s closer to 70 percent. A new mayoral coalition made up of 19 cities worldwide would require all new buildings to produce as much energy as they consume.
Today, 19 mayors from the C40 group signed a pledge to make all new buildings net-zero carbon by 2030. The mayors—including those of U.S. cities Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, and Washington D.C.—also pledge that by 2050, all buildings, old or new, will be net-zero as well.
“Portland has been a longtime global leader in environmental initiatives and I look forward to continuing to advocate and fight for ambitious environmental strategies,” said Ted Wheeler, Mayor of Portland, Oregon, in a statement. “Ensuring Portland’s old and new buildings achieve net zero carbon use is an essential challenge I am ready to take on.”
The C40 cities will work with the World Green Building Council, which has already set the 2030 date as a benchmark for the corporations and institutions it advises. Next month, many leaders from the cities will meet in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit sponsored by California Governor Jerry Brown’s office.
Net-zero construction has been on the rise in the U.S. in recent years, with some cities already experimenting with strict building codes that require new structures to generate their own power. California wants all new buildings to be net-zero by 2020 and requires solar panels to be installed on new homes.
Mayors from the C40 group, a coalition of hundreds of cities working together on coordinated climate action, have entered into similar pledges around creating fossil-fuel-free streets and using zero-emission buses. The pledges have become even more urgent for American cities after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accord.
Designing buildings to be more efficient is certainly key to combatting climate change, but cities must also take into consideration how a building’s occupants get there. For many of the cities pledging to construct these energy-efficient structures, transportation is a bigger culprit when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Meaning dense, walkable neighborhoods are just as important as net-zero construction.