Bold policy proposal is one of the most impactful actions Seattle can take to reduce emissions, and follows significant stakeholder engagement and climate analysis
Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell transmitted legislation to the City Council for the Building Performance Emission Standard – a bold policy to address the climate crisis and create clean buildings. The policy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing large buildings by approximately 325,000 metric tons by 2050 – a 27% decrease in emissions from a 2008 baseline. At the City Council, the legislation will be sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold and heard in the Council’s Select Committee on Climate Action formed by Council President Debora Juarez.
“Buildings are one of our largest sources of pollution and must be part of the solution to the climate crisis,” said Mayor Harrell. “Advancing meaningful climate action – like this policy – to create healthy communities, clean buildings, and good jobs is a priority for my administration. The City is leading by example to decarbonize our buildings with the 62-story Seattle Municipal Tower now fully fossil fuel free – a milestone for our efforts to reduce emissions. In this proposal, we are making it a priority to reduce emissions from buildings across the city and provide the needed support systems for building owners to actually get it done. It is thanks to the partnership with Councilmember Herbold and a broad coalition of environmental leaders and advocates, labor partners, building owners, and community members that we are able to advance this fair, equitable, and ambitious policy that furthers our sustainability goals and continues Seattle’s decades-long legacy of national climate leadership.”
The proposed Building Emissions Performance Standard Policy (BEPS) was announced in June 2023, and applies to existing nonresidential and multifamily buildings greater than 20,000 square feet. The reduction in climate emissions which will result from the passage of this legislation is the equivalent of taking 72,322 gasoline-powered cars off the road for a year. Key policy details include:
- BEPS sets carbon-emissions targets that buildings must meet over time to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
- Compliance starts with reporting requirements by 2027 that quantify building emissions and encourage owners to prepare for emissions reductions, followed by requirements to meet emissions targets in five-year intervals starting in 2031 that become progressively lower until reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
- The BEPS policy has flexible compliance pathways to accommodate buildings of many uses, size, type, ownership, age, and systems, with low-income housing and human services given a longer lead time to prepare.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) said, “Addressing our climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We need to act swiftly and take big swings. This legislation does just that and will significantly move the needle on reducing emissions in Seattle. I thank the Mayor, Office of Sustainability and Environment, and advocates for working together. I appreciate the extensive outreach and stakeholder meetings that OSE carried out during the last two years – it serves as an example of how our community can move forward together on this critically important issue. I thank Council President Juarez for creating a special committee to hear this legislation.”
“BEPS is a unique piece of legislation with broad support across labor, affordable housing, and environmental sectors,” said Jessyn Farrell, Director of the Office of Sustainability and Environment. “Years of meaningful collaboration with stakeholders has led to BEPS, one of the best climate actions we can take to reduce our emissions. I am grateful for passionate advocates, Mayor Harrell’s leadership, and support from Council to move BEPS forward, and excited to see Seattle take another step towards reaching our climate goals.”
“350 Seattle is excited to see Building Emissions Performance Standards up for a vote in December. We especially want to uplift the hard work of the community organizations and Seattle residents that championed this policy for the City of Seattle, and we encourage Council Members to vote yes!” said Shemona Morena, Executive Director at 350 Seattle. “We look forward to working with the Office of Sustainability and Environment toward supporting energy retrofits for low-income housing and the Seattle Social Housing Developer, and on further progress toward meeting Seattle’s climate goals.”
The BEPS policy was developed to maximize benefits to building owners and tenants and to ensure equitable pathways to high quality green jobs, especially for people of color and women. The policy is forecasted to create hundreds of local jobs that cannot be outsourced and will support workers directly in the Seattle area.
In addition to the proposed standard, the City has developed programmatic and technical support for building owners through programs like the Seattle Clean Buildings Accelerator program which provides technical support and funding for upgrades. Mayor Harrell included $4.5M year to support the Accelerator program in the 2024 proposed budget for engineering and capital investments, prioritized for buildings in or serving frontline communities, as well as an additional $530,000 for BEPS implementation.
This legislation was called for both in the City’s 2013 Climate Action plan and more recently in Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan. The proposed legislation will now make its way through a specially created Council committee on climate change.
The City of Seattle received input from hundreds of people during the process of developing the legislation, including residents, workers, community-based organizations, nonprofits, building owners and managers, tenants, labor representatives, environmental justice groups, affordable housing providers, and more, over nearly two years of meetings, open houses, webinars, advisory group and specialized task force sessions.
For more information about the proposed BEPS policy, see the Office of Sustainability’s website at: https://www.seattle.gov/building-performance-standards
What People Are Saying:
“Buildings are still the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington, and burning fossil fuels inside our homes and buildings pollutes our indoor air and harms public health. Seattle’s new Building Emissions Performance Standard will ensure Seattle’s largest existing buildings transition to being fully powered by clean energy over the next few decades. This policy will help put Seattle on track to meeting its climate targets while also protecting the health and safety of our communities, reducing air pollution, and increasing the use of heat pumps that provide both heating and air conditioning. We’re very pleased to have worked with the City on making the policy more equitable, effective, and enforceable, and look forward to continuing this work in the coming years.”Deepa Sivarajan, Washington Local Policy Manager, Climate Solutions
“To protect public health and mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, Seattle must transition off of fossil fuels like polluting fracked gas. Developing strong and enforceable Building Emissions Performance Standards and requiring large buildings to make the switch from dirty fuels is a critical step to protect our climate and reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution and will offer a model for other cities in the region to follow.”Dylan Plummer, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club
“Climate change has reached Seattle in the form of wildfire smoke and heatwaves and this policy is part of the solution. Mayor Harrell’s Building Performance Standards policy is forecasted to create thousands of jobs over its lifespan which will benefit Seattle-area workers and expand career pathways for women and workers of color.”Katie Garrow, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, MLK Labor (AFL-CIO)
“The Building Emissions Performance Standard is a great opportunity to advance Seattle’s Green New Deal by addressing one of the city’s largest sources of emissions while creating green union jobs and expanding strategies to support climate resilience for people across Seattle. Equitable implementation and ensuring no communities are left behind in Seattle’s clean energy transition is essential. We look forward to working with the Mayor, City Council, and community partners in the coming years to ensure BEPS plays a key role in Seattle’s Just Transition.”Debolina Banerjee, Green New Deal Oversight Board Executive Committee Member
“Affordable housing is critical, as is solving our ever-growing climate crisis. Today, through Mayor Harrell’s leadership, we will start making meaningful reductions in the climate pollution that, sadly, impacts our most vulnerable communities in Seattle first and worst. We will, at the same time, ensure that we are creating more resilient housing for Seattle’s residents far into the future. This is one of those rare moments when we can celebrate a giant policy leap forward that addresses the intersecting crises of affordable housing, racial equity, and climate change. I am proud of the work we did together to ensure that the Building Emissions Performance Standard works for affordable housing providers and the broader ecosystem.”Patience Malaba, Executive Director, Housing Development Consortium
“Buildings must be part of the climate solution and Seattle’s Building Emissions Performance Standards is a key strategy, guiding the city’s largest buildings on a path to clean, efficient electric systems as they upgrade over the coming years. The resulting clean energy retrofits will make a difference in day-to-day lives, by expanding access to heat pumps for cooling in the face of heat events and wildfire smoke that are now familiar in our region.”Rachel Koller, Managing Director, Shift Zero
“This proposed Building Performance Standard is vital to helping Seattle achieve its climate, clean energy, and economic goals. Building retrofits require planning and investment, and this proposal provides both. Large commercial and multifamily building owners will be able to access funding and incentives for clean energy retrofits from the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, state and local programs to decarbonize their buildings in the coming years, creating healthier living and working spaces.”Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director, NW Energy Coalition
“Seattle’s bold action to adopt a Building Energy Performance Standard sets a powerful example of what climate leadership looks like. With the proposed building standards, Seattle will join C40 Cities like New York, Boston, and Washington DC in charting a path forward for cities to reduce emissions from buildings, create good green jobs, and keep residents safe and healthy. C40 commends Seattle and Mayor Harrell and looks forward to the greener future enabled by this milestone achievement.”Laura Jay, C40 Cities Regional Director for North America
“The proposed Seattle Building Emissions Performance Standard positions the city among national leaders in reducing emissions from existing buildings—a crucial step to confronting the climate crisis and delivering health and economic benefits for families and businesses. RMI applauds Mayor Harrell for proposing this new standard and we look forward to supporting this strong policy that prioritizes housing equity, climate justice, and energy savings for its most vulnerable residents.”Jonny Kocher, Manager, Carbon-Free Buildings Program, RMI
“Congratulations Mayor Harrell for this groundbreaking achievement. Seattle’s collaborative approach, working closely with the building industry and environmental community to deliver the kind of impactful policy that the climate crisis requires, is a model for other cities.”Simone Mangili, Executive Director, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance
“Seattle’s proposed law marks a significant step towards aligning with major US cities like Boston, St. Louis, New York, and Washington DC. This strategic move not only integrates Seattle into a national effort but also enhances its potential to obtain crucial federal funding for equitable implementation. The impact of the proposed building performance standards extends beyond buildings; it offers substantial benefits for residents and the climate.”Jessica Miller, Senior Director of Policy Strategy & Engagement, IMT
“This is important and challenging legislation. As a member of the Technical Advisory Group, it feels like our concerns were heard and addressed. The City did a great job of listening to stakeholders and crafting a standard that is simple to understand and will be effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.”Neil Bavins, Principal, Windward Consulting NW
“Fossil fuel use in buildings is one of the biggest contributors to the pollution that causes climate change. Seattle has helped to lead the way in Washington on reducing pollution in new construction and we’re encouraged to see them moving forward with a proposal to reduce pollution from existing buildings. This is a step in the right direction, and we hope this policy can help accelerate related efforts. A win in Seattle sets a template for cities across the country to do the same.”Michelle Piñon, SAFE Cities Senior Organizer, STAND.earth