Global-Warming Issues Take Center Stage

April 11, 2007
Climate change has captured the attention of many – including the 110th Congress

Once the concern of a small group of advocates, scientists, and Al Gore, global warming and climate change have now captured the attention of everything mainstream - from Oprah to the U.S. Congress - and of BOMA Intl. Whether or not you trust in the science of global warming and mankind's ability to reverse it, policymakers from both political parties at all levels of government are looking at how to "green" their communities and reduce carbon footprints.

Early in the 110th Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made it clear that the issue of global warming would be a legislative priority. "Scientific evidence suggests that, to prevent the most severe effects of global warming, we will need to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions roughly in half from today's levels by 2050," Pelosi stated in her opening remarks at a February hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee. Speaker Pelosi went on to say that the committees with jurisdiction over energy, environment, and technology policy have been asked to report legislation on these issues by June in hopes of having "legislation that will be a starting point on global warming and energy independence through the committees by July 4 so that, this year, Independence Day is also Energy Independence Day."

To accomplish this task, Speaker Pelosi has created a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which will develop policy and strategy recommendations. Already, several bills have been introduced in the House and Senate, and several more are anticipated, including ones by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-MI) and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

One of the issues that BOMA Intl. will closely watch is whether a carbon "cap and trade" program will be included in any legislation that is enacted. This approach, which would cap greenhouse-gas emissions and permit emitters - such as utilities and industrial customers - to trade carbon allowances, is strongly supported by many Democrats in Congress, but not by President Bush. However, support for this type of approach has gained some followers from business. In January, 10 major corporations and four environmental groups came together to form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). The groups, which include DuPont, PG&E, BP America Corp., and the World Resources Institute, are calling for mandatory carbon reductions from major emitters, including commercial buildings.

Though President Bush did not include any proposals to tax or curb carbon-dioxide emissions, he did strongly emphasize climate change in his State of the Union address to the country in January. In addition, he has issued an executive order that requires each federal agency to implement energy-reduction strategies. He is also teaming up with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to draft legislation aimed at further improving the energy efficiency of federal buildings and may require the retrofitting of existing buildings and mandates for new construction.

Though the commercial real estate industry has begun to catch the "green" wave and voluntary energy-efficiency measures are widely embraced, as evidenced by the growing number of buildings that are benchmarking their energy usage through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR® benchmarking tool and by participation in programs such as the BOMA Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP), building owners and managers need to be well aware of the fact that the real estate industry may be the next target of regulation.

Many advocates for green buildings say that all buildings - federal and private sector - must be held accountable for energy reduction in order to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. According to Architecture 2030 (a green advocate), residential, commercial, and industrial buildings are responsible for about 48 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions annually. The group also has an aggressive strategy for new construction and major renovations to be carbon neutral by 2030. Variations of this 2030 Challenge have been adopted by the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Green Building Council, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mayors across the country are working to green their communities.

Energy efficiency and sustainability issues have also taken center stage for BOMA Intl. and its members. BOMA's advocacy team is actively working with Congress and other industry groups to identify voluntary incentives to encourage adoption of sustainable building, management, and operational practices and discourage mandates.

BOMA needs to hear from you! Please communicate your thoughts on energy, green buildings, and sustainability issues by sending an e-mail ([email protected]).

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