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Wednesday July 24th 2019

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Dithering Against Climate Change


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In the US, buildings are responsible for almost half (48%) of annual greenhouse gas emissions; globally, the percentage is even greater.  Since all of the buildings in the entire world are existing, if we do not make significant reductions to building greenhouse gas emissions, then we aren’t serious about addressing climate change.

This Tuesday, City Council will decide whether proposed “smart regulations” (energy efficiency upgrade regulations for existing residential rental buildings) should advance to the next stage of Council consideration.  These “smart regulations” will be one of the City’s most substantive act after years of delay toward addressing climate change and achieving City climate action plan goals, which include achievement of Kyoto Protocol goals.

During last week’s public testimony before City Council on this issue, many landlords and their lobby, the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association (BARHA) turned out in force, packing Council chambers to oppose Smart Regulations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Reasons given ranged from asserting such regulations would have no effect because irresponsible renters will negate any building improvements, to asserting that older buildings can’t be reasonably improved (despite decades of evidence to the contrary).  However, other landlords testified that they had already made the types of  building improvements that the Smart Regulations will require and had realized cost effective benefits.

Fundamentally, the opposing landlords’ resistance to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions is about who foots the bill.  They do not want to incur the cost of change.  We have spent 150 years since the industrial revolution getting into this climate change predicament.  Surely no one believes addressing it will not incur costs.

If Boulderites want building greenhouse gas emissions reduced and building owners don’t want to pay the cost, then who pays?   Me?  You?

Or maybe we do nothing.   But that has costs too; it just increases and transfers them from landlords to everyone else.

Scientists give us 10 years to be well on our way toward global greenhouse gas emission reductions to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Yet in last week’s Council meeting, landlords suggested if such smart regulations were to be implemented, there should be a long phase in period, such as 15 years.

Now I’ll go out on a limb here and presume that most readers accept that climate change is real, dangerous and critical; that it represents a serious threat to livelihoods and lives throughout the world and that immediate and substantive action might be prudent.  If climate change was treated as a life threatening disease such as clogged arteries, would it be prudent to reject your doctor’s recommendation for immediate bypass surgery because you didn’t want to spend the money?  Would you defer action for 15 years?

Boulder talks the talk about being a sustainable community.  Can we walk the walk?  Climate change demands immediate and robust action and the Smart Regulations will be an early meaningful step towards fulfilling its climate action plan after 8 years of talk.

Addressing climate change will require effort from everyone.  What I heard from BARHA and opposing landlords last week is that they don’t want to shoulder their share of this responsibility.

We have a simple choice – to act or dither; but one way or another, there will be a price to pay.  City Council should not shy away from the opportunity offered by the Smart Regulations to take a major step toward reducing Boulder’s greenhouse gas emissions.

DITHERING AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

In the US, buildings are responsible for almost half (48%) of annual greenhouse gas emissions; globally, the percentage is even greater.  Since all of the buildings in the entire world are existing, if we do not make significant reductions to building greenhouse gas emissions, then we aren’t serious about addressing climate change.

This Tuesday, City Council will decide whether proposed “smart regulations” (energy efficiency upgrade regulations for existing residential rental buildings) should advance to the next stage of Council consideration.  These “smart regulations” will b one of the City’s most substantive act after years of delay toward addressing climate change and achieving City climate action plan goals, which include achievement of Kyoto Protocol goals.

During last week’s public testimony before City Council on this issue, many landlords and their lobby, the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association (BARHA) turned out in force, packing Council chambers to oppose Smart Regulations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Reasons given ranged from asserting such regulations would have no effect because irresponsible renters will negate any building improvements, to asserting that older buildings can’t be reasonably improved (despite decades of evidence to the contrary).  However, other landlords testified that they had already made the types of  building improvements that the Smart Regulations will require and had realized cost effective benefits.

Fundamentally, the opposing landlords’ resistance to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions is about who foots the bill.  They do not want to incur the cost of change.  We have spent 150 years since the industrial revolution getting into this climate change predicament.  Surely no one believes addressing it will not incur costs.

If Boulderites want building greenhouse gas emissions reduced and building owners don’t want to pay the cost, then who pays?   Me?  You? 

Or maybe we do nothing.   But that has costs too; it just increases and transfers them from landlords to everyone else.

Scientists give us 10 years to be well on our way toward global greenhouse gas emission reductions to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Yet in last week’s Council meeting, landlords suggested if such smart regulations were to be implemented, there should be a long phase in period, such as 15 years.

Now I’ll go out on a limb here and presume that most readers accept that climate change is real, dangerous and critical; that it represents a serious threat to livelihoods and lives throughout the world and that immediate and substantive action might be prudent.  If climate change was treated as a life threatening disease such as clogged arteries, would it be prudent to reject your doctor’s recommendation for immediate bypass surgery because you didn’t want to spend the money?  Would you defer action for 15 years?

Boulder talks the talk about being a sustainable community.  Can we walk the walk?  Climate change demands immediate and robust action and the Smart Regulations will be an early meaningful step towards fulfilling its climate action plan after 8 years of talk.

Addressing climate change will require effort from everyone.  What I heard from BARHA and opposing landlords last week is that they don’t want to shoulder their share of this responsibility.

We have a simple choice – to act or dither; but one way or another, there will be a price to pay.

Leonard May,  Boulder

Leonard May is a partner in May Yin Architecture and a former landlord

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