Shoreline, WA, flexes climate leadership with steps toward clean buildings

Monday August 23, 2021

Shoreline City Council uses powerful local strategy to reduce climate pollution in newly constructed buildings

SHORELINE, WA — On Monday, Aug. 16, the Shoreline City Council advanced an important step in significantly reducing future greenhouse gas emissions from commercial and large multifamily buildings in the city. Councilmembers directed staff to develop an ordinance that would prohibit the use of fossil fuels for space and water heating in new commercial and large multifamily buildings (defined as over four stories). This action occurred just one week after the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered a new report that serves as a “code red for humanity,” and amounts to a clarion call to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects globally. Local governments throughout the U.S. and in Canada are implementing building electrification ordinances — like the one Shoreline is now considering — as effective policy tools to stop the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Shoreline city staff will draft the proposed ordinance and bring it back to the council for adoption later this year. The proposal would require changes to the local building energy code to prevent fossil fuel use, including natural gas, for space and water heating in new construction of commercial buildings. Although the council did not take a vote, Shoreline residents spoke powerfully at the meeting, urging the city to phase out the use of fossil gas, citing concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and safety. 

“Every month that goes by, a lot of new buildings are being vested under the current code...if you build a building today, it’s going to be there thirty or fifty years from now,” Mayor Will Hall said during the Aug. 16 hearing. “And how do you explain to future generations that we were still building new infrastructure that was dependent on fossil fuels in 2021 while Siberia is burning and our air quality is horrible?” 

“Our council continues to be a leader in addressing climate change,” Councilmember Chris Roberts said. “We were one of the first cities to affirm the principles of the Paris Climate Accords, and we amended our comprehensive plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit global warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. I look forward to supporting this policy when an ordinance comes before council later this year.”

Shoreline joins a host of cities across the country adopting such pledges. That includes almost 50 in California, but Shoreline will be among the first in Washington state. Seattle became the first in Washington in February 2021, when the City Council enacted a similar policy to what Shoreline is now considering. King County and Bellingham are also working on their own measures, while other entities like the city of Tacoma and Seattle Public Schools have also made commitments to phasing out gas in buildings. In the past two years, these policies have gained immense popularity among local governments because they’re effective means to reduce emissions, support state climate goals, and promote cleaner, healthier environments for residents. Cities and counties in Washington have clear legal authority to impose these regulations on new commercial and large multifamily buildings through their commercial energy codes. 

“It’s great to see cities taking strong leadership and substantive action to ensure our homes and buildings are clean, safe, and healthy,” said Deepa Sivarajan, climate policy manager with Climate Solutions. “We’re really seeing momentum build to take advantage of our state’s 100% clean electricity law, and help residents access the cleanest, most affordable electricity around. Electrifying our buildings and reducing dependency on burning fossil gas is essential to achieving our state’s climate goals and is also the lowest-cost pathway to meeting these goals.” 

Burning fossil fuels in buildings accounts for 23% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the 2021 State Energy Strategy. While emissions from electricity and transportation are declining, emissions from buildings in Washington have continued to grow. In fact, building emissions are growing at the fastest rate of any sector in the state. 

Video of the full Aug. 16 council meeting is available here: https://shoreline.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=1220&meta_id=117488
 

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Media contacts: 

Peter Jensen, SAFE Cities Communications Coordinator, safemedia@stand.earth, +1 415 532 3817 (Pacific Time)
Stephanie Noren, Washington Communications Manager for Climate Solutions, stephanie.noren@climatesolutions.org, +1 360 580 7885 (Pacific Time)