A haiku of state and local advocacy opportunities in 2014
New year, new session;
Advocates plan, train, and meet;
For chance to green laws.
I believe in concise writing; thus, what better way to lay out advocacy possibilities in 2014 than with a haiku?
As one year closes and another begins, it is customary to look back on what we accomplished and the possibilities in the new year. We've already looked back on the campaigns in 2013, courtesy of Jeremy Sigmon, so let’s look at the advocacy possibilities for creating a greener, more sustainable built environment in 2014. Below are a few examples of opportunities to get our green building priorities into the proverbial mix and elevate these issues for federal, state and local lawmakers and the public at large in 2014.
All green building is local
Many of the stories printed about Congress after it adjourned for 2013 focused on how it was the least productive year ever. Between the shutdown in September and brinkmanship with the national debt ceiling, it seemed to be a very busy year of doing not much at all. Given that 2014 is an election year, there is little hope that it will be much more productive.
But this did not stop all policymaking: Innovative policies were introduced and passed at the state and local levels, especially in America’s large cities and metro areas. This trend is likely to continue, especially with local governments stepping in to take the lead on energy efficiency and sustainability. In 2014, we will likely see much more from local governments, rather than state governments, in terms of sustainability and making their cities greener. (Remember, it is an election year for many state governors and legislators.) For example, the implementation of a building energy benchmarking ordinance in Chicago and Philadelphia will provide how-to's and lessons learned for how major cities can put this policy into effect.
Local action and uptake provides USGBC advocates a unique opportunity to focus on scaling the eight issue advocacy priorities: Leadership with LEED, Common Ground Around Green Schools, Mainstream Building Benchmarking, Improve Energy Data Access, Build Better Codes, Highlight Green Homes, Value Healthy and Efficient Affordable Housing, and Resilient Cities.
Mr./Ms. Green Building goes to Washington?
Whether at the federal, state or local level, the 2014 election cycle provides an opportunity to get to know whoever currently represents you and who wants to represent you. Many nonpartisan nonprofit organizations compile education tools for their members and supporters and the public about candidates’ policy positions on their issues of interest. The Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy program has put together a how-to for nonprofits on candidate questionnaires and voter guides. The League of Women Voters and its chapters publish a candidate questionnaire and voter guide for elections. The Delaware Valley Green Building Council jointly hosted a successful candidate forum in 2010, which it will replicate in 2014.
Join the conversation
Numerous governors and state legislators are having conversations about energy from both the supply and demand perspectives. However, very few of these debates include policies that promote lowering energy use for buildings. For example, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently released his “No Regrets” energy future report and policy recommendations. The energy efficiency portion of the report only mentions energy efficiency for buildings in passing, with one reference to building benchmarking and energy usage data access and transparency as “other recommendations” from public comment. The majority of the report is focused on utility-side energy offset policies. Snyder will definitely address energy in his 2014 State of the State address Jan. 16, which offers an opportunity for advocates to horn in on the conversation and provide a different perspective to help achieve Michigan’s energy efficiency goals. Other governors will be giving State of the State addresses in the coming weeks and presenting their next-fiscal-year budgets. These are all excellent opportunities to bring green building policies to the forefront of policy discussions in different forums, so participate in person or via social media. Make your voice heard!