- THE MAGAZINE
Facing an unrivaled financial crisis, President-Elect Obama and the new 111th Congress have been moving quickly and decisively to develop a plan to revive the economy through swift passage of the single largest economic recovery package in U.S. history. With a commitment to transformative change aimed at catapulting the U.S. into a position of leadership in the new green economy, the incoming administration plans to make a significant down payment on major green initiatives that will spur innovation, put money back into the wallets of hard-working Americans, and create millions of green jobs.
In ongoing talks with the transition’s energy and environment team since November, the U.S. Green Building Council has advanced vital green building policy priorities that will simultaneously create millions of green-collar jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and advance proven opportunities to deliver greener, more energy-efficient buildings.
Already, the President-Elect issued a recent commitment to make the U.S. a global leader in green, energy-efficient government facilities, calling for an overhaul of 75% of federal buildings in an effort to save $2 billion through energy efficiency alone. On schools, the President-Elect has said repeatedly that green school funding will be another priority in the economic package.
These commitments, as well as other green building solutions for strengthening the economy, are powerful reminders of not just where we need to focus immediate recovery investments, but also reflect the experience and ingenuity that has long characterized the green building movement and the work and mission of the USGBC. Throughout the country, our members and green building advocates are transforming our nation’s living, working, and learning spaces-creating buildings and communities that embody our shared environmental, economic, and social values and aspirations.
Informed and energized by these successes, and channeling the momentum generated by its recent Greenbuild conference, the USGBC will continue to advance innovative and effective policy solutions to assist Congress and the presidential transition in crafting a bold economic recovery plan.
The USGBC remains committed to accelerating the shift to a revived and prosperous green economy, and is spearheading the following initiatives in talks with the transition and Congress as part of an essential, solutions-oriented response to the mounting economic challenges we face today:
Provide Robust Support for Green Schools
Across the country, thousands of school buildings suffer the effects of age, lack resources for renovation, and offer unhealthy and unsafe learning and working environments. The USGBC recommends that the federal government provide robust funding for school construction and renovation projects that comply with energy efficiency and green building standards, in recognition of existing project backlogs nationwide and the vast environmental and economic opportunities they present. The USGBC also proposes the creation of a White House Green Schools Taskforce to unite experts from the federal government, states and localities, the nonprofit sector, and other stakeholders to promote green schools as a component of national education, energy, and environmental policy.
Create a Revolving Loan Fund to Spur Investment in Green Building
Mounting environmental challenges and a sluggish economy demand that innovative new incentives be created to trigger and support investment by the private sector in green building strategies and technologies. The USGBC recommends the creation of a multibillion-dollar revolving loan fund, accessible to state and local governments, to support retrofitting and green building projects that create energy savings and a positive return on investment. Utilizing a revolving loan fund mechanism whereby loans are repaid through energy and other savings from funded improvements could dramatically reduce future federal budget liability for green initiatives.
Provide Robust Support for Green Job Training
With unemployment rates on the rise and the health of both the economy and environment in peril, the need for bold action to revive the American workforce is clear. The USGBC recommends full funding of the green job training programs outlined in the Green Jobs Act of the 2007 federal energy law to ensure the preparation of America’s workers for the new green economy. Additional incentives are necessary to encourage private employers to seek training for their existing workforces. As an important first step, the USGBC recommends the creation of a new tax incentive for businesses and organizations that pay for their employees to participate in training programs administered consistent with the framework of the Green Jobs Act.
Fund Green Building Projects in Government Facilities
Across the country, backlogs of public facility projects highlight the need for significant investment to ensure the safety and sustainability of our nation’s public buildings. These projects represent an important opportunity to demonstrate leadership by example in the use of green building practices and energy-efficient technologies, and to create green jobs for the low-carbon economy of the future. The USGBC recommends that the federal government provide significant funding to support green building, retrofitting, and energy efficiency projects in federal facilities, in recognition of the tens of billions of dollars in estimated repair and improvement needs reported by federal agencies. Significant investment in green building and renovation projects in state and local public facilities is similarly essential. Full funding of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program created by the 2007 federal energy law is a critical step to this end.
Invest Boldly in Green Affordable Housing
The deteriorating state of many public housing facilities compounds the difficulties posed by a troubled economy. Indeed, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently reported that state and local housing agencies owning and operating public housing face an estimated repair and maintenance backlog of $22 billion. The USGBC recommends that ample funding be provided for green building and retrofitting projects in public housing facilities. The federal Weatherization Assistance Program offers additional, proven opportunities to create green jobs, reduce energy consumption, and increase the affordability and comfort of America’s homes. The USGBC recommends that the federal government provide robust funding for this critical initiative.
The USGBC looks forward to working with Congress and the new Administration to promote the uptake of policies and initiatives that advance green building, energy conservation and healthy, livable communities.