One of the most nonsensical proposals of the Green New Deal was its section that called for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings” to reach carbon neutrality. Not only was the scale of this proposal absurd, the deadline it set gave America only 10 years to accomplish it.
Given that the proposal was nothing more than a series of vague platitudes meant to instill a false sense of urgency about climate change, it wasn’t surprising that the resolution received ZERO votes in the Senate. Despite this, several presidential candidates are pushing even more radical ideas for America’s buildings.
In CNN’s recent climate change town hall, Elizabeth Warren called for the United States to achieve zero carbon emissions in new buildings by 2028 as opposed to the Green New Deal’s more realistic, relatively speaking of course, deadline of 2030.
Cities have also taken radical steps to mandate new building restrictions. Earlier this year, the City of Los Angeles enacted its own plan in line with the Green New Deal to shift all of its new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030. But aside from these vague goals, what specific requirements would plans like this entail?
According to environmentalists, the most effective ways of designing buildings to reduce 100% of their GHG emissions is through a combination of energy efficient design, on- and off-site renewable energy production, and carbon offsets. This means that new “clean” buildings will be required to purchase new technologies in heating and lighting specifically designed to reduce energy consumption, have solar panels on top of them or pay for wind or solar production off-site, or simply pay extra to plant enough trees that will capture the CO2 they emit.
All of these methods would dramatically increase the costs of new buildings and would extend to existing buildings after 2030. According to a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board for a similar rule, home construction costs will increase $40,000 as a result of these policies.
Regardless of whether it’s developers or buyers who foot the bill originally, consumers would ultimately pay the price of these mandates — something the environmentalist movement carefully leaves out of the conversation. According to the National Association of Home Builders, for every $1000 increase in the median home prices, 127,560 Americans are priced out of the housing market. For many, this means renting is the only option — but for the poorest among us, even a small price increase is the difference between paying rent and getting evicted.
In addition, these regulations would force buildings to rely on energy sources that produce electricity sparsely in certain periods, which would lead to higher electricity prices and periodic blackouts due to lack of electricity production. This can mean life or death for some people. In the Venezuelan blackouts earlier this year, at least 43 hospitalized patients died as a result of the loss of power.
Unfortunately, these policies will disproportionally hurt the poor. The poorest 20% of Americans already spend over half of their income on housing and have less than $500 left over to pay for other necessities. It won’t take much for housing to become too expensive and millions of Americans are kicked to the curb. With Los Angeles’ worsening homelessness problem, the last thing the city needs to do is make housing more expensive, and it’s certainly the last America needs as well.