Residential and commercial buildings are responsible for roughly 25% of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when accounting for fossil fuels consumed onsite and electricity demand. Refrigerants used for space cooling and refrigeration systems also contribute directly to building-related GHG emissions. California must reduce statewide GHG emissions to a level 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 [Senate Bill 32 (SB 32), Pavley, 2016]. California’s 2022 Scoping Plan outlines a roadmap for California to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 or earlier. An assessment of the potential for buildings to meet this target is underway. Assembly Bill 3232 requires the California Energy Commission (in consultation with the California Air Resources Board and California Public Utilities Commission) to assess the potential for California to reduce building-related emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 [Assembly Bill 3232 (AB 3232), Friedman, 2018].
Significant GHG emission reductions and improved air quality can be achieved through building decarbonization without compromising functionality or comfort. Three key strategies provide an optimized pathway to building decarbonization: 1) clean energy supply resources, 2) energy efficiency improvements in buildings and appliances, and 3) energy demand flexibility. Building electrification provides a low-cost, low-risk strategy to decarbonize buildings and achieve 2030 and 2050 climate goals. As California transitions to increased building electrification, installation of appliances with climate-friendly refrigerants should be an important focus and high priority to avoid any unintended consequences of increased GHG emissions.
In order to achieve long-term carbon neutrality goals, CARB is focused on advancing towards zero emission buildings. While building decarbonization efforts often focus on energy-related measures, CARB’s activities take a broad “green building” approach to maximize energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, minimize transportation emissions, and provide good indoor environmental quality to protect occupant health. CARB is focused on efforts to achieve zero emission buildings in a way that will accelerate social equity, economic, and health benefits.
Statewide strategies to reduce GHG emissions from buildings rely on these mechanisms:
California state agencies leading by example
Consistent mandatory provisions for all building types
Encourage voluntary efforts to go beyond mandatory code requirements
Retrofit existing State, school, residential and commercial buildings
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
CPUC is responsible for a Building Decarbonization proceeding to implement SB 1477, develop pilot programs to address new construction in areas damaged by wildfires, coordinate policies with CEC's Energy Code and Appliance Efficiency Standards, and establish a policy framework.
Department of Community Services and Development (CSD)
CSD delivers the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP) to provide low-income households with solar PV systems and energy efficiency upgrades at no cost. LIWP is funded by the California Climate Investments program.
California Energy Commission (CEC)
The California Energy Commission (CEC), in consultation with CPUC, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), is developing a plan to achieve the AB 3232 target to reduce building related GHG emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Building Decarbonization Coalition
Building Decarbonization Coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating market transformation, building consumer awareness, advocating for public policy, and identifying research opportunities to advancing building decarbonization in California.
 California Air Resources Board. 2019. California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000 – 2017, 2019 Edition, California Air Resources Board.
 California Energy Commission staff. 2020. Final 2019 Integrated Energy Policy Report, California Energy Commission. Publication Number: CEC-100-2019-001-CMF.
 Mahone, A., Subin, Z., Kahn-Lang, J., Allen, D., Li, V., De Moor, G., . . . Price, S. (2018). Deep Decarbonization in a High Renewables Future: Updated Results from the California PATHWAYS Model. California Energy Commission.