Jul 17, 2020

Is your stove making you sick? What do four walls and a roof have to do with the climate crisis? How are utility bills and racism connected?

All of these questions are linked to climate action! Oregon is undertaking its biggest climate action yet: The Oregon Climate Action Plan (OCAP). Years of Oregonians pushing our state to do more to stop the climate crisis have resulted in a sweeping set of climate actions getting underway in the next year and a half. 

We want you to know more about OCAP and what it does so you are empowered to defend it against polluting industries with us, when they try to rollback or weaken this major protection for our health and future. 

This installment is about Clean Buildings, a critical climate solution. If you think of the Oregon Climate Action Plan like a house, we’re actually passed the blueprint stage. The executive order putting OCAP into place is like having the foundation and the frame of the house already built! Over the next 16 months will be a series of rulemakings by the state, which is like putting all the wiring, plumbing and drywall in our Climate Action house. It’s the nitty gritty work of protecting our children’s future.

Corporate lobbyists will try to sell the rulemakers shoddy wires, poisonous pipes, and flimsy materials or try to convince them now is no time to build a house at all. We have to be ready to fight back and demand the strongest, most equitable climate action possible, built from the best stuff out there. 

Will you take the pledge to defend OCAP together?

The Oregon Climate Action Plan is such a big deal because it tackles many of the worst sources of climate pollution. One of those is homes and buildings. Where we live, shop, work and worship cause about one-third of all the climate pollution from our state-- heating, cooling, and powering our homes and buildings. Yet, we have the technology to clean things up.

Homes and buildings constructed now will last for generations, locking in their impact on our health, energy bills, and climate for decades. We must build significantly cleaner, better performing, and fossil-free homes and buildings now. More than 700,000 new houses and apartments will be built in Oregon by 2050, not to mention all the commercial buildings (est. 800 million square feet, about the size of 4,444 Walmart SuperCenters!).

A commitment to Clean Buildings protects our health-- the air we breathe inside everyday-- and our future as we face the climate crisis. OCAP tackles one part of the problem: new buildings

OCAP strengthens standards for new buildings over time so by 2030 they'll be constructed to maximize energy efficiency and be ready to produce as much clean energy as they use, with solar panels for example.

Clean Buildings are tightly sealed, with thick insulation, and sturdy windows and doors to keep heat or AC in, and the weather, pollen, and air pollution out. They have better airflow for health. Appliances inside run efficiently on electricity, not fossil fuel gas -- because your water heater and furnace don’t have to rely on gas and yes, a gas stove pollutes your home and adds to the climate crisis (this article has some tips to protect yourself).

Oregonians will enjoy huge savings on energy bills as our homes, buildings, and appliances use energy more efficiently, with less waste and climate pollution— using proven technologies already available today. Oregonians will save hundreds of millions of dollars from these new, clean buildings, which we will spend on paying other bills, spoiling our kids, starting a business, or supporting the community.

Did you know appliances sold in Washington and California waste a lot less energy than the ones sold to Oregonians? Well, not for long. OCAP also requires new standards for things like lighting, dishwashers, and computers. Requiring this new, higher standard will save Oregonians $35 million per year on our energy bills by 2025, just five years from now, and cut climate pollution equivalent to preventing 8 million gallons of gasoline from being burned.

The folks in charge of updating our state’s rules for new buildings are called the Building Codes Division, and the Oregon Dept. of Energy is handling the appliance standards. We’ll be watching their process. Take the OCAP pledge to be automatically signed up for updates and actions.

What’s Next?

We're fighting to leave our kids a climate they can THRIVE in, so our work is far from over in the world of buildings, even with OCAP in place. Most of us don’t choose how our homes or businesses are constructed; we move into what’s available. Building clean buildings today, means we have something better to move into tomorrow. OCAP takes care of the new stuff, but did you know ⅔ of buildings currently standing will be still around in 2050?

100% Clean Buildings Action Items:

🏘️ We must help people fix up all current homes and buildings to be energy efficient, healthy Clean Buildings.

⚡ We must stop constructing new buildings reliant on fossil fuel gas.

🔧 We must replace gas-burning furnaces, water heaters, and stoves with modern, electric ones to protect our health and climate.

👷 We must seek to create good-paying jobs for Oregonians, and prioritize minority and women owned contractors so they have a fair shot, and apprenticeships for the next generation.

In all of the above, we must prioritize investments and benefits to low-income and communities of color first, because racist policies and systems have made homes available in these communities disproportionately waste more energy and have higher levels of pollution inside. Low-income families, many of color, spend three times more of their money on energy bills than the average family. If we can fix this disparity through Clean Buildings, families could save up to $2,860 per year!

To combat racism, we must prioritize commitment to frontline communities for these upgrades, known as “weatherization” or “energy efficiency retrofits.” Simultaneously, we’re on a mission to get fossil fuel “natural” gas out of our homes, schools, and businesses. It creates indoor air pollution where it’s burned, the piping infrastructure is aging, and the cost of gas is volatile as the industry becomes more unstable. We can’t allow vulnerable people to be left holding the bag on old, expensive, polluting buildings while the wealthy use new, clean technology.

Clean Buildings will be a green jobs recovery engine as we put our economy back on track coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in Clean Buildings can create good-paying, local jobs in construction, electrical, manufacturing, design, engineering, sales, and more. Before the pandemic, more than 42,000 Oregonians worked in energy efficiency jobs, with 70% of employers being small businesses with 11 employees or fewer.

We look forward to making new buildings as clean as possible through OCAP and working with you and this community on all the rest of the work to reach 100% Clean Buildings!

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What else will the Oregon Climate Action Plan accomplish?
Check it out!