My Carbon Is As Bad As Your Carbon

Today, the EPA briefed Congress on its intent to

formally declare carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that threaten public health and welfare.

This declaration clears the way for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act and other regulatory mechanisms. 

According to the USGBC, in the United States alone, buildings account for 38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  Even if these statistics are wrong by HALF, that is still 20% of carbon dioxide.  Yet many cap-and-trade and other carbon management programs do not incorporate carbon regulation of buildings because they are categorized as "indirect" and therefore more difficult to calculate and regulate.  There is also the argument that the emissions from "direct" sources like power plants are already regulated, and therefore it will be easier to regulate their emissions.

However, the health and safety of buildings is already regulated by energy codes, fire codes,  building codes, zoning codes, etc.  If greenhouse gases are a threat to human health, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings is as critical as protecting from the risk of fire. Moreover, if a cap-and-trade system is put in place, carbon credits will be very valuable.  If reductions in greenhouse gases can be generated by high performance building practices, this value should be available to those developers who choose to pursue those solutions.

Today's announcement by the EPA will lead to regulation by the executive branch, or spur Congress to act to regulate greenhouse gases.  The regulatory solution must include a regualtory mechanism for managing the greenhouse gas emissions of buildings.

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