What Comes After West Virginia v. EPA – Local Actions on Climate Change


Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position.

Local initiatives are crucial to combatting climate change — and action is especially critical in real estate, as buildings, transportation, heating, and cooling make cities responsible for up to 76% of global carbon emissions. In fact, over 800 cities around the world have committed to halving their carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The role local communities have to play will only increase in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)The decision limits the agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions, further shifting the burden of tackling climate change from the federal government to cities and states.

Progress on climate action is still being bolstered by the federal government through other paths. Just weeks after the Supreme Court ruling, the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act resulted in a USD369 billion commitment to climate action. The bill offers tax credits for real estate owners with energy-efficient properties in their portfolio, offers new incentives for renewable energy projects, and expanded EPA funding to local emissions reductions efforts like the deployment of low- and zero-emission technologies.  

Local action to reduce carbon emissions

Performance standards and energy savings programs are critical tools that enable cities to reduce their emissions demand and make progress toward their net-zero goals.

Building owners typically bear the responsibility for disclosing portfolio-wide energy data as mandated by local laws and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks. For instance, New York’s Local Law 97 requires landlords not only to collect and report energy data from tenants, but also to actively manage their buildings’ energy efficiency.

Madison, Wisconsin has city- and community-wide net-zero emissions targets and recently joined over 40 state and local governments across the country that have policies and programs focused on making existing buildings more energy efficient. Madison’s program will increase energy benchmarking and help building owners make better decisions about their energy usage.

Joining the local movement

In the aftermath of the West Virginia v. EPA decision, portfolio owners can expect increased interest in building decarbonization efforts and local mandates to collect and report on utility consumption data along with progress on efficiency initiatives.

It’s a multi-faceted challenge, but there are some best practices for building owners seeking to increase utility data coverage, engage tenants in sharing data, and use data to inform sustainability projects across their operations. Real estate owners should:

  • Develop ESG data management plans that inform the development of key performance indicators and help set ESG goals and targets.
  • Increase data coverage across owned real estate portfolios through more robust data collection.
  • Engage tenants, especially in triple-net leases, to share their meter data through green leasing by adding utility authorization clauses that allow them to access tenant consumption data and better understand their portfolio-wide footprint.
  • Utilize that data to improve building performance by incorporating efficiency initiatives across their portfolio.
  • Submit data where local reporting requirements and performance standards are locally mandated.

Building owners play an essential role in local strategies that support global climate action. As cities and states take leadership, building owners must set new climate goals and implement efficiency initiatives throughout their operations to satisfy local ESG requirements. This is even more imperative with the West Virginia v. EPA decision, but together, building owners and local entities can lead the way in global change.   

This article was written by Zoe Williams, Director of Marketing at Aquicore.