It’s Friday, July 15, and Washington, D.C., policymakers want to limit natural gas in new buildings.

Washington, D.C.’s 13-member city council unanimously approved two bills this week to push forward the district’s decarbonization goals. For the first time, the legislation enshrines D.C.’s carbon neutrality target into law and sets limits on the use of natural gas in new buildings.

The two bills represent “one of the most aggressive climate change regimes in the country,” said Doug Siglin, D.C. coordinator for the nonprofit advocacy group Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund.

The first bill, the Climate Commitment Amendment Act, requires the District of Columbia to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, codifying and strengthening the ambition of a 2017 pledge from Mayor Muriel Bowser. To get there, the law sets interim greenhouse targets for every five years, ultimately aiming to slash greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 2006 levels by 2040.

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The act also mandates that D.C. not install any fossil fuel-powered space- or water-heating appliances in city-owned buildings after January 1, 2025. It sets a 2026 deadline by which the municipal government must stop leasing or purchasing gasoline-powered cars.

The second bill, the Clean Energy D.C. Building Code Amendment Act, sets decarbonization targets for the city’s homes and buildings, which account for more than 70 percent of the city’s climate pollution. The act requires that all “new construction or substantial improvements” of commercial, government, and multi-family buildings built after 2026 comply with net-zero energy standards. It specifically prohibits fossil fuel-powered heating systems, effectively banning natural gas from most new buildings.

Siglin expects the two bills to become law after receiving Bowser’s signature and subsequent approval from the U.S. Congress. As a next step, he wants to see more action to decarbonize existing buildings. New legislation is needed to replace natural gas- and propane-powered heating systems with electric heat pumps, he told me. “That’s the next big challenge that’s facing not only D.C., but all of us in the country.”

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