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San Francisco, House Democrats unveil plans to cut building emissions

Jun 30, 2020 |

By Nichola Groom and Valerie Volcovici

(Reuters) – San Francisco on Tuesday was set to propose legislation outlawing the use of natural gas in buildings, as congressional Democrats unveiled a blueprint to combat global warming that would support updated building codes to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

The moves are the latest in a growing effort by state and federal Democratic lawmakers to target natural gas, a fossil fuel, for its contribution to climate change.

In San Francisco, city officials were scheduled to announce legislation that would eliminate natural gas in new construction. If the new building code is adopted, San Francisco would join 30 other California cities that have passed measures to reduce the use of natural gas for heating and cooking.

Reducing emissions from buildings was also a key pillar in House Democrats’ newly unveiled detailed blueprint for how Congress can decarbonize each major U.S. economic sector to come close to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Residential and commercial buildings account for about 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The congressional report said that until now, the federal government has not played a role in tackling building emissions because of a patchwork of city and state codes, and suggested new legislation to create local incentives to clean up new buildings.

“Congress should incentivize states, local governments, tribes, and territories to adopt the most updated residential and commercial building energy codes, with the goal of all jurisdictions adopting a net-zero-emission code by 2030,” the report recommended.

The report also recommends that Congress enact point-of-sale rebates to hasten the replacement of natural gas and oil space heating, water heating, and cooking appliances with electric appliances.

The buildings proposals were based on Washington state Governor Jay Inslee’s climate plan from his failed presidential bid, according to Evergreen Action, a group of former Inslee staffers.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom and Valerie Volcovici; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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