Mayors and local governments call for Gov. Newsom to pursue a statewide zero-emission building code after legal setback threatens climate progress

September 8, 2023|Press Release
Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose join 22 other local jurisdictions in calling on Newsom to pursue alternative path to statewide building standards to protect Californians against climate crisis 


Sacramento, Calif.– Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose are among 25 local governments calling today for California Gov. Gavin Newsom to pursue a statewide zero-emission building standard next year. The appeal from local governments follows a widely criticized ruling from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year that invalidated the city of Berkeley's landmark climate-friendly building code, creating considerable uncertainty for the 75 local governments in California with similar policies on the books. 

“Climate change is an existential crisis, and we need to do everything we can to move away from fossil fuels,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “Municipalities across the state are taking bold action to cut emissions from our built environment and Sacramento is proud to be among these leaders, but local efforts alone will not get us to California’s 2030 climate targets. We need a unified state standard to ensure that new construction across California is all electric.”

In a letter sent to the Governor’s office Friday, local governments make the case that a unified statewide code can solve the uncertainty created by the three-judge appellate panel’s decision, ensuring that cities are not stuck building polluting infrastructure that they neither need nor want. Aligning state and local policies is also urgently needed to support the state in building healthier homes and buildings that can withstand the challenges of the climate crisis and support the state in meeting its climate targets.

“Buildings are the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, and gas appliances are a significant source of indoor air pollution that damages public health,” said Los Angeles Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky. “So, just as numerous cities across California have taken the lead on adopting strong standards to reduce or eliminate these emissions, scaling these standards statewide is a no brainer. Californians deserve to live in homes that are free from indoor air pollution, and our state leaders need to treat this issue as the climate and public health threat that it is.” 

While the California Energy Commission (CEC) is responsible for developing the energy portion of the 2025 building code, the letter notes that they too may be inhibited by the 9th Circuit ruling and requests that Gov. Newsom uses additional authority vested in CALgreen to set zero-emission building standards for new construction. This strategy was first proposed by the California Air Resources Board in the 2022 Scoping Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality.

Homes and buildings generate about a quarter of California’s climate pollution, but progress in cutting these emissions has been slow compared to other sectors. A climate-friendly building code will help California get back on track by ensuring that future investments in infrastructure align with the state’s climate targets. Guaranteeing new homes are equipped with clean energy technologies will prevent costly retrofits in coming decades.

“I’m proud that in Los Angeles we have created a regulatory framework for all new residential and commercial buildings to be built so that they will achieve zero-carbon emissions as our electric grid becomes carbon-free – and we have moved swiftly to make this the law of the land,” said Councilmember Nithya Raman. “But these efforts cannot be enacted in a vacuum – we need all hands on deck, from the City to the State. I urge Governor Newsom to scale up our efforts and set California on the path toward implementing a statewide zero-emission building standard.”

While California gave birth to the movement to ensure all new buildings run on clean energy through local action, the letter notes the state is now falling behind in enacting policies to cut pollution from homes and buildings. New York became the first state in the nation to set an all-electric building code earlier this year, providing a precedent for California to replicate. 

“Local cities and counties across California, including Los Angeles County, are leading the way in establishing zero-emission building standards for healthier communities,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath. “It’s now time for the state to do the same, getting us that much closer to reaching California’s 2030 climate targets and modeling for other cities what’s possible and necessary. Decarbonizing homes and buildings is the right thing to do as we collectively work to ensure we are building for a greener, more resilient future.”