Thought Leadership from Sieben Energy Associates
President Trump's decision to exit the Paris Agreement (aka, Paris climate accord) is disappointing to many, but not unexpected. Companies, individuals, and organizations of all kinds have decried the decision as a major step backwards in the face of the very real threat of climate change. And rightly so.
But how much material effect will the president's decision have on a country that has built significant momentum towards curbing greenhouse gas emissions? I don't think the country's retreat from common sense policy will cause anywhere near the amount of harm to our carbon footprint that some people fear. The Paris Agreement demonstrates the cooperation of over 200 countries to safeguard the planet for future generations, but a piece of paper alone does not dictate all activity on the matter.
By June 1, owners or managers of essentially all buildings in Chicago larger than 50,000 square feet were required to submit their 2015 energy usage data to the City. This is the third year that some have had to report their data; for others, it is their first year of compliance. Back in September 2013, Chicago joined a handful of other U.S. cities when it became the latest to adopt a building energy benchmarking ordinance. Through the impact of the ordinance, the City of Chicago hopes "to raise awareness of energy performance through information and transparency, with the goal of unlocking energy and cost savings opportunities."
In December 2015, the City of Chicago made public the 2014 energy usage data and ENERGY STAR scores (for those buildings that can receive scores) for commercial and institutional buildings larger than 250,000 square feet. The spreadsheet, presenting data for 243 buildings (predominantly offices, hospitals, K-12 schools, and colleges/universities), can be downloaded from the City's Data Portal.
The United States has not adopted into federal law an advanced energy policy that targets energy production and consumption with respect to climate impact. Despite a lot of talk and a handful of bills proposed in Congress since President Obama's inauguration a year and a half ago, no comprehensive legislation has been able to pass both the House and Senate. A handful of bills have been proposed. None of the efforts to date was able to garner significant political momentum or public support. Healthcare and finance reform have stolen the show, and the headlines.
But all this changed when tragedies at a coal mine in West Virginia and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in dozens of human casualties and cast America's attention on fossil fuels. How Congress will respond depends on many variables, and nobody knows for certain whether any climate (or even energy) legislation will become law by January 2011. But trends indicate that if no comprehensive package emerges from Capitol Hill, states and regions will continue to strengthen their own environmental standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may assert its authority to control pollution widely viewed as an anthropogenic cause of climate change.