Where the Presidential Candidates Stand
With the 2020 election season well underway, there are scores of policy proposals flying around, particularly on environmental issues like climate change, energy efficiency and resilience from natural disasters.
But what about buildings? Buildings account for more than 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of electricity use. Any comprehensive policy proposal on the environment should include the built environment as part of the solution.
BuildingAction reviewed the candidates’ websites to find out where they stand on sustainable building issues. Read on to see what each candidate says (or does not say) about green buildings.
Former Vice President
“Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan ensures that – coming out of this profound public health and economic crisis, and facing the persistent climate crisis – we are never caught flat-footed again. He will launch a national effort aimed at creating the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future. … Biden will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, setting us on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands.”
What They Say About . . .
. . . Green Buildings
- “Upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years, creating at least 1 million good-paying jobs with a choice to join a union; and also spur the building retrofit and efficient-appliance manufacturing supply chain by funding direct cash rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade and electrify home appliances and install more efficient windows, which will cut residential energy bills.”
- The plan “includes mobilizing a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly – all manufactured in the United States.”
- The plan “will include direct cash rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade and electrify home appliances, install more efficient windows, and cut residential energy bills.”
- “Spur the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units. . . .”
- “As president, Biden will work with Congress to electrify the building sector and increase energy efficiency in a range of ways. For homeowners, he’ll reinstate tax credits for residential energy efficiency. For businesses, he’ll expand tax deductions for energy retrofits, smart metering systems, and other emissions-reducing investments in commercial buildings.”
- “[W]ork with local and state governments and the private sector to expand the utilization of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). Biden will also reinstate the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), slated to expire in two years; and will construct net-zero-carbon federal buildings, to serve as a model for state and local governments and the private sector.”
- “Drive dramatic cost reductions in critical clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, [and] the next generation of building materials . . . . and rapidly commercialize them, ensuring that those new technologies are made in America.”
- “[R]epair the building code process with the goal of establishing building performance standards for existing buildings nationwide and support this effort with new funding mechanisms for states, cities, and tribes to adopt strict building codes and labor standards to ensure quality and predictability.”
- “Paired with legislation to set a new net-zero emissions standard for all new commercial buildings by 2030, these steps and critical investments in the Build Back Better Plan will accelerate progress to Joe Biden’s target of cutting the carbon footprint of our national building stock in half by 2035.”
- “[A] national effort to upgrade America’s schools and early learning facilities. In line with the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, backed by the House Education and Labor Committee, Biden will make an historic investment to improve public school buildings, with resources weighted to those lower-income rural and urban schools — all too often in communities of color — where the poor quality of school buildings is an additional barrier to equal educational opportunity. . . additional funding will be used to build cutting-edge, energy-efficient, innovative, climate resilient campuses, which not only have the schools with technology and labs to prepare our students for the jobs of the future, but also become themselves the places that provide communities with green space, clean air, and places to gather, especially during emergencies.”
- “[U]pgrade child care and early learning facilities around the country that are not safe or developmentally appropriate for young children, who are especially vulnerable to environmental contaminants like lead and mold, and to safety hazards like electrical outlets.”
- “Create a new Advanced Research Projects Agency on Climate, a new, cross-agency ARPA-C to target affordable, game-changing technologies to help America achieve our 100% clean energy target, including . . . refrigeration and air conditioning using refrigerants with no global warming potential; zero net energy buildings at zero net cost, including through breakthroughs in smart materials, appliances, and systems management; . . . decarbonizing industrial heat needed to make steel, concrete, and chemicals and reimagining carbon-neutral construction materials . . . .”
- “[S]cale up best practices from state-level clean energy standards, which are being implemented in a way that provides renewable credits to developers that follow high labor standards, including through Project Labor and Community Labor Agreements and paying prevailing wages. [This will] spur the installation of millions of solar panels – including utility-scale, rooftop, and community solar systems – and tens of thousands of wind turbines – including thousands of turbines off our coasts – in Biden’s first term.”
. . . Sustainable Communities
- “[I]ncentivize smart regional planning that connects housing, transit, and jobs, improving quality of life by cutting commute times, reducing the distance between living and leisure areas, and mitigating climate change.”
- “Provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options through flexible federal investments with strong labor protections that create good, union jobs and meet the needs of these cities – ranging from light rail networks to improving existing transit and bus lines to installing infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
- “[W]ork to make sure that new, fast-growing areas are designed and built with clean and resilient public transit in mind. Specifically, he will create a new program that gives rapidly expanding communities the resources to build in public transit options from the start.”
- “Clean . . . and redevelop . . . abandoned and underused Brownfield properties, old power plants and industrial facilities, landfills, abandoned mines, and other idle community assets that will be transformed into new economic hubs for communities all across America.”
- “Encourage innovation and launch smarter cities. . . . build on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge by launching a yearly $1 billion competitive grant program to help five cities pilot new planning strategies and smart-city technologies that can serve as models for the country. Biden will also direct the Department to work with labor unions to develop a plan to help workers impacted by this automation find high-paying, quality jobs.”
. . . Resilience
- "On day one, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change. Every dollar spent toward rebuilding our roads, bridges, buildings, the electric grid, and our water infrastructure will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand a changing climate.”
- “As President, Biden will use the convening power of government to boost climate resilience efforts by developing regional climate resilience plans, in partnership with local universities and national labs, for local access to the most relevant science, data, information, tools, and training."
- “Biden will bring together the best innovators to help design common-sense zoning and building codes and help communities build and rebuild before and after natural disasters and other shocks and stresses.
- “Develop new tools to manage and reduce risk and the cost of transferring risk. Working with the insurance industry, the Biden Administration will identify ways to lower property insurance premiums for homeowners and communities who invest in resilience, expanding programs like the Community Rating System that FEMA currently administers across the country.”
- “Invest in the climate resilience of our military bases and critical security infrastructure across the U.S. and around the world, to deal with the risk of climate change effects, including extreme weather events that caused over $8 billion in damages to Department of Defense bases in just the last year. Biden will direct the Secretaries of Defense and Energy to develop specific inventories of the most acute vulnerabilities in our critical infrastructure due to climate change, and prioritize upgrades, hardening, and resilience investments to mitigate them.”
- “Create a National Crisis Strategy to address climate disasters that prioritizes equitable disaster risk reduction and response. . . Building on Senator Markey’s Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act, Biden will use a whole-of-government approach to develop a national climate crisis strategy for each type of climate disaster that the National Climate Assessment warns will put Americans at risk (e.g., heat waves, sea level rise, wildfire, air pollution, infectious disease, hurricane, and floods).”
- “Establish a Task Force to Decrease Risk of Climate Change to Children, the Elderly, People with Disabilities, and the Vulnerable. The Biden Department of Health and Human Services will lead a Task Force to Decrease Risk of Climate Change to Children, the Elderly, People with Disabilities, and the Vulnerable including disadvantaged and frontline communities identified by the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. The Task Force will identify the health impacts of climate change that will pose the largest risk to the most vulnerable populations and work across the Department and with other agencies to use a whole-of-government approach to decrease those risks, including baseline health inequities. In addition, this Task Force will be charged with developing a ready-to-deploy recovery strategy that ensures adequate housing for individuals displaced by climate disasters.”
“President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). According to NERA Economic Consulting, the CPP would have increased electricity rates by as much as 14 percent, costing American households up to $79 billion.”
What They Say About . . .
. . . Green Buildings
No specific mention
. . . Sustainable Communities
“The President’s infrastructure plan will establish a Rural Infrastructure Program to invest in rebuilding and modernizing rural infrastructure. . . The array of broad asset classes eligible for funding under President Trump’s plan will include: Transportation projects which will rebuild roads, bridges, railways, and other vital infrastructure; Broadband deployment projects which will improve access for rural communities; Water and waste projects to help ensure rural families have access to clean water; Power and electric projects to provide rural areas with reliable, affordable power; Water resources projects to better manage flood risk and improve rural water supplies and waterways."
. . . Resilience
No specific mention
BuildingAction does not endorse candidates in primary or general elections. Nothing in this report should be construed as support or opposition to any candidate. Candidates and parties are listed alphabetically. BuildingAction made every effort to report on candidates’ positions accurately; any mistakes or omissions were inadvertent. Please email with any suggested corrections.)