Green Buildings’ Bottom Line

Politicians have spent years bickering over who should bear the costs of reductions in carbon emissions in order to fight climate change. But policymakers should embrace one of the cheapest ways of cutting the pollution that lies at the root of the problem: making buildings more efficient.

HONG KONG – Killer typhoons in Taiwan and China. A failed monsoon in India. The United Nations Secretary General in the Arctic pleading for action on climate change, while politicians bicker over who will bear the costs.

But, instead of letting that debate rage while the planet heats up, policymakers should embrace one of the cheapest ways of cutting the air pollution that lies at the root of the problem: making buildings more efficient.

Surprisingly, buildings account for about one-third of global energy use. Transportation, mostly cars, accounts for roughly another one-third. Factories and mines make up the rest. A lot of attention has gone into making cars and factories more efficient since the first global energy shocks of the 1970’s. Yet most buildings are bigger energy hogs than a fleet of SUVs. Given advances in technology in everything from window glass to air conditioners, change can come for no net cost.

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