We have previously noted that efforts to achieve economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will necessarily go beyond the electricity generating sector. One obvious target will have to be greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, which EPA estimates account for 17 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.
Although there have been efforts, particularly in California and Massachusetts, to use state NEPA analogues to control carbon emissions from new projects going forward, and there have been similar efforts to build energy efficiency into state building codes, existing buildings will inevitably become a focus, simply because their carbon emissions are too big to ignore.
Yesterday, EPA Region II and Cushman & Wakefield got out ahead of the curve, announcing a voluntary agreement pursuant to which Cushman & Wakefield agreed to reduce energy consumption from the 3,000+ buildings it owns or manages by 30 percent by 2012. There are other aspects to the agreement as well, such as a commitment to achieve LEED certification for new construction.
The size of the reduction to which this agreement commits Cushman & Wakefield is notable, in that a 30 percent reduction by 2012 is more aggressive that the nascent regulatory schemes are envisioning. It certainly suggests, as environmentalists have argued for some time, that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be found in the energy demand management area.
This type of agreement is almost certain to become more common as the threat of mandatory regulation becomes more tangible. In fact, depending on the nature of greenhouse gas reduction regulations, such agreements could provide significant economic benefit to the Cushman and Wakefields of the world, if they are allowed to obtain early reduction credits or other economic recognition of the reductions achieved under the voluntary agreements.