Hand-in-Hand: Environmental and Social Justice Communities and California EnergyCode
Britney Blankenship, Julia Renner, Heidi Werner, Marissa Lerner (Energy Solutions) Kelly Cunningham (PG&E)
Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is urgently important for the survival of people on our planet. As energy efficiency advocates who promote more stringent building codes, we feel obligated to pull out all stops to reverse the adverse impacts of anthropogenic climate change as quickly as possible. However, it is not responsible to charge ahead without considering impacts on all people. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately and negatively affected by the impacts of climate change, and a far greater share of their income goes toward energy bills than higher-income earners. It is crucial that codesand standards that aim to stop climate change do so hand-in-hand with, not off the backs of, disadvantaged communities. The authors of this paper have collectively advocated for dozens of unique changes to building codes throughout the United States. This paper examines the current code development process and what is working and what is not through the lens of equity. We recommend a path forward that would put equity as a central consideration for all code change proposals. We explore how to apply best practices and lessons learned in engaging the environmental justice community in public rulemaking processes and approaches to ensure that all people have access to and benefit from higher efficiency and lower emissions buildings.
Ensuring that all people have access to high-performance buildings that use energy efficiently and increase occupant health and safety can avoid making occupants choose between maintaining a comfortable environment and paying their utility bills. As we strive to address climate change equitably, it is imperative that input from all impacted communities informs the regulations being proposed. We cannot assume that the needs and concerns of all communities will be met or that decision-makers know what they need. Building long-term relationships with impacted communities, actively soliciting feedback from these stakeholders, and incorporating feedback into proposed code changes is critical to ensuring historically overlooked voices are heard and that measurable progress is made toward effectively serving these communities.
Energy Solutions is focused on creating large-scale environmental impacts by providing cost effective, market-based carbon, energy, and water management solutions.
For more than 25 years, Energy Solutions has created reliable, market-driven strategies to protect the planet. View our qualifications.
Our employee-owners are passionate about developing solutions that are good for people, the planet, and our clients’ bottom line. See our openings here.