This blog was originally posted by NRDC on May 7, 2020.
The move not only tackles the city’s biggest source of greenhouse gases, but it also shows that local leaders are continuing to pick up the federal government’s slack on climate action.
Demonstrating the power of locally led climate action, Mayor Lyda Krewson signed into law ambitious energy efficiency standards for St. Louis’s buildings, which account for about 80 percent of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The first of their kind in the Midwest, the new Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS)—which follows similar policies enacted in Washington D.C., New York City, and Washington State—will reduce climate-destroying pollution while also spurring local job growth, saving building managers money on their energy bills, and protecting the public’s health.
The bill was part of St. Louis’s climate action efforts under Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge, in which organizations like NRDC support cities in tackling climate projects in the transportation and building sectors. The latest win will move St. Louis that much closer to its goal of a 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“St. Louis shows that cities do not have to wait for the federal government to lead on climate. They don’t need to wait for states,”says Stefan Schaffer, an American Cities Climate Challenge ACCC strategist at NRDC. “They don’t even have to wait for bigger cities. Mayors and local city councils can bring the climate leadership needed right now.”
St. Louis’s BEPS plan applies to buildings 50,000 square feet or larger that were already required to report their energy and water use under existing city law. Now those buildings will move beyond reporting into incremental energy-saving actions that will build over time, such as following energy-saving best practices and investing in upgrades to systems like AC and heating units.
The move is just the latest in a wave of local action that comes in the absence of federal climate leadership. While the Trump administration continues to roll back environmental protections, city and state leaders have invested in everything from clean cars and renewable energy to public transit and the food waste reduction.
“Aggressive policies like St. Louis’s new performance standard bring the jobs, improved air quality, and economic activity that every city in America needs right now,” Schaffer says. “I think we will see others following the Gateway to the West’s lead.”