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WA Localities Speed Up Effort to Reduce Buildings' Emissions

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The building sector is the second-biggest carbon emitter in Washington state. (Dene' Miles/Adobe Stock)
The building sector is the second-biggest carbon emitter in Washington state. (Dene' Miles/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA - Producer, Contact
February 19, 2021

SEATTLE - While Washington state lawmakers consider a bill to clean up the energy that buildings run on, some cities and institutions already are leading the way.

House Bill 1084 would put the state on a path to decarbonizing the building sector, the fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the state. Last week, the Seattle School Board committed to run on 100% clean and renewable energy by 2040.

Seattle School Board of Directors member Zachary DeWolf co-wrote the resolution, and said he was inspired by a speech from the valedictorians of a Seattle high school in 2019.

"They were calling all of the adults out, both in the audience and just writ large," said DeWolf. "And they said, 'What kind of future are you graduating us into? What are you doing? We have eight to 10 years before we are going to be at a point of no return when comes to climate emergency.'"

DeWolf said Seattle schools have 8 million square feet of facility space to convert to running on clean energy. The district is the first in the state to make this commitment.

Building-sector carbon emissions are second only to transportation in Washington.

HB 1084 also would empower cities and counties to pass stronger building codes reducing emissions. Issaquah City Council President Victoria Hunt said the city has committed to reducing emissions to 80% below 2007 levels by 2050.

She said cleaning up buildings is key to this goal, and HB 1084 would allow cities to act even faster than state goals.

"Our climate crisis requires urgent action," said Hunt. "And we really need all the tools in the toolbox to act on this now, and this will give us an important tool."

Uche Okezie is director of real estate development for the affordable-housing developer HomeSight in Seattle. She said residents are willing to pay more up-front for green technology like solar designs - and interest has grown because of COVID-19.

"All this is becoming more important because of the pandemic and all of the things that have affected folks having to work from home," said Okezie. "They really want their environment to be clean and safe."

HB 1084 is in the House Committee on Appropriations. It received a public hearing this week.

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