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After failing to pass in the 111th Congress, comprehensive federal climate legislation appears stalled until at least 2013. Regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under existing federal law, while progressing, has encountered challenges. Even state initiatives, such as California's A.B. 32, lie on less than certain ground. But not all action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be taken on the federal or state level. Through regulating buildings, municipalities can play a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while improving the health and welfare of their local communities.

In 2009, the residential and commercial building sector was responsible for more than 50 percent of total annual U.S. energy consumption, 74 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, and 39 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While state energy codes require a minimal level of efficiency, municipalities in New York and other states can enact stronger regulations and thereby reduce this substantial source of emissions.

We propose that one of the most effective ways a municipality can act to reduce these emissions is to enact a green building ordinance that mandates not only energy efficient buildings, but a full spectrum of carbon-cutting practices. Green buildings also use water more efficiently, are built from reused and sustainable materials, and reduce the negative environmental impact of buildings in several other ways.


Environmental Law | Law


Sabin Center for Climate Change Law