By guest blogger Eleanora Kaloyeropoulou, Climate and Energy Fellow at Pennsylvania Environmental Council
On March 15-16, 2017 the Pennsylvania Environmental Council is convening Achieving Deep Carbon Reductions: Paths for Pennsylvania’s Electricity Future in Pittsburgh. This conference will bring together prominent thought-leaders in clean energy and climate protection for an open and honest discussion around the challenges of deep decarbonization as a potential strategy for Pennsylvania. The blog post below expands on topics and concepts associated with the conference.
The building sector has an important role in the conversation around Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas future. Pennsylvania produces 1% of the world’s carbon, making us the third largest contributor of greenhouse gas in the country. Most of our carbon emissions come from electricity consumption—40%—with 60% of our electricity usage coming from buildings. This considerable carbon output means that Pennsylvania’s contribution to climate change is significant, as should be our role in limiting that change and its impacts.
The present level and scope of activity and thinking in the Commonwealth is not robust enough to put us on a viable path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a pace that prevents the worst case scenario impacts of climate change. Reducing carbon emissions by the recommended 80-95% by 2050 will require greater systematic changes. Deep decarbonization—a pathway to the end goal of eliminating carbon emissions altogether—may allow us to develop a strategy that maximizes cost-effectiveness and benefits to Pennsylvanians, by setting the end goal, then developing a road map to get there. In comparison, smaller, incremental targets may not be the most effective way to get to 80% and beyond, and could potentially lead to dead ends.
Deep decarbonization will involve working across a wide-range of sectors and across partisan lines. The Green Building Alliance’s goals for the 2030 District create a model for how the building and energy efficiency sectors can positively impact emissions and decrease the risk for climate change.
One particularly important strategy for deep decarbonization in the electricity sector is energy efficiency—one of GBA’s biggest strengths in the 2030 District. Through the end of 2015, the 2030 District efforts have reduced energy usage by 12.5% below the baseline. The Pittsburgh 2030 District includes over 76.8 million square feet and 101 organizations throughout Pittsburgh’s Downtown and Oakland neighborhoods—that’s over 70% of all the square footage in those neighborhoods. This is particularly significant because Downtown and Oakland are, respectively, the second and third largest commercial business districts in Pennsylvania. If GBA’s hard work can translate to such substantial energy reduction in these bustling corridors of the state, similar methods can be implemented across Pennsylvania.
PEC and GBA hope that representatives of the high performance building sector will be a part of the conversation moving forward. Help our region to make sure that the energy efficiency is represented at the Achieving Deep Carbon Reductions conference as we work on creating a strategy for sufficiently reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy we develop at the conference will influence state policies and programs for years to come, and we need all sectors to be part of forging the best path forward for Pennsylvania.