Californian city votes to slash climate pollution from new construction

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San Luis Obispo has voted in favour of incentivising all-electric new construction which the City Council hopes will slash climate pollution from new construction in the city.

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The Californian city of San Luis Obispo, in the country’s Central Coast, has voted in favour of approving a measure to incentivise all-electric new construction which it hopes will help push the city closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2035 – the most ambitious local climate action target in the United States.

The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 4-1 on an updated building code which will require new homes and buildings to be electric-retrofit-ready.

While developers will still have the flexibility to build mixed-fuel buildings (electric and gas), the newly approved measure will make it easier for homeowners and building owners to switch to all-electric home alliances in the future if and when desired or necessary.

“The reach code adopted tonight is one of the strongest in the state and propels San Luis Obispo ahead of some 50 cities in California as a leader in the climate movement,” said Eric Veium, chair of the SLO Climate Coalition which supported the measure.

“There are tremendous benefits of moving all zero-pollution buildings and tonight, the council made the clear-sighted and prudent decision to prepare our city for a carbon-free future.”

The measure is an attempt to address what the NRDC describes as “a longstanding pollution blind spot: natural gas use in buildings.”

Buildings currently account for 25% of California’s total emissions and are second only to transportation as the leading source of climate pollution. Thus, by easing the installation and transition to modern, highly efficient electric appliances instead of gas appliances, San Luis Obispo hopes to cut pollution and create cleaner air indoors.

Additionally, reducing the use of gas in homes and buildings not only results in direct health and economic benefits by avoiding indoor air pollution, but it also reduces the impact of rapidly increasing gas prices and reduces the risk of fire – a significant problem in earthquake-prone California.

Developers who still want to install gas appliances will need to meet higher efficiency standards.

“Buildings that use renewable electricity to power appliances instead of gas are cost-effective and can even be less expensive both to build and operate — while being healthier for people, our planet, and a business’ long-term profits and economic viability,” noted Mike Horgan, a local builder and construction consultant.

“I’ve strongly supported this measure because our industry contributes almost half of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, and we all have a responsibility to future generations to remedy this. To do so via a clean, renewable energy source while simultaneously building resilient, efficient, and healthy homes is fantastic for homeowners.”

In fact, the approved measure received a wide swath of community support and San Luis Obispo City Council members suspect that the issue might even have set a new record for the most community input received on a single measure – the majority of which were in favour of the measure.

“This is a time of significant change in California, America and the world, in both technological advancements and climate disruption. Communities are ready to take action,” said Eric Veium. “Now, we must continue this momentum and maximize the benefits to our families, our community and our planet.”

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