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All-electric buildings aren’t only for the rich

Technician installing a heat pump. Photo by Canva.

Decarbonizing existing residential buildings is critical to meeting state and global climate goals. Today, buildings in California are responsible for 25 percent of our total annual greenhouse gas emissions. To have a chance at staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, California must cut building emissions by almost 70 percent over the next six years

That’s why more than 70 cities in California have followed Berkeley’s lead in drafting laws to require building electrification and replace fossil gas. Overwhelming evidence shows that fossil gas is hazardous to our health and drives climate change. So it’s a crushing blow that a federal appeals court has rejected Berkeley’s ordinance, creating an uncertain future for other cities attempting to follow suit. 

Even worse, ratepayers footed the bill for corporate utilities’ efforts to halt progress on this issue. Since 2019, Southern California Gas Company has charged its customers at least $36 million to fund opposition to clean energy policies like building electrification. 

Voluntary programs to electrify buildings are also facing funding hurdles. In order to secure 250,000 heat pumps for low-income residents across California, Southern California Edison proposes charging ratepayers about one dollar per month. The California Public Utilities Commission is balking at that cost.

Funding building electrification becomes even more challenging in a budget deficit year, which is why Governor Newsom just proposed a $283 million cut to building decarbonization programs. Together, these setbacks don’t bode well for indoor air quality nor for reducing climate pollution across the state. 

While wealthier California homeowners still have options for electrifying their homes, it’s the state’s working class that is at risk of being left behind. Access to building electrification is critical to equitable and accelerated climate action. Join us in telling Governor Newsom to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and prioritize climate investments in the state budget, including urgent building decarbonization efforts. 

This blog first appeared in The Climate Center’s bi-weekly newsletter. To keep up with the latest climate news and ways to take action for a climate-safe future, subscribe today!