When it comes to going green, the capital of the United States is leading by example. Washington, DC, just doubled its commitment to renewable energy in a groundbreaking effort to curb air pollution and improve health, Fast Company reports.
The city had previously planned to switch to 50% renewable electricity by 2032, but just set a more ambitious goal — to run entirely on renewable electricity by the same year. The target is one component of a major climate bill, signed into law on Friday, that aims to cut the city's carbon emissions in half over the next decade.
"It's the most ambitious renewable portfolio standard in the country," Mark Rodeffer, the chapter chair for DC Sierra Club told Fast Company.
California and Hawaii have made similar commitments to move toward renewable energy by 2045. Like those states, DC has made renewable energy a legal requirement, rather than a voluntary ambition, but the nation's capital hopes to make this a reality sooner rather than later, setting a much tighter deadline for its efforts. Nationwide, 90 cities have adopted 100% clean energy goals and six have already met their targets, according to environmental nonprofit Sierra Club.
DC's law will mainly target on buildings, which account for approximately 75% of the city's emissions. About half of DC's buildings will likely need to undergo renovations or make significant changes to their heating and cooling systems in order to meet the new energy benchmarks, Fast Company reports.
The city is also taking major steps to reduce emissions produced by vehicles by requiring all city buses, taxis, limos, and some large privately owned fleets to be zero-emission by 2045.
Although DC sees fewer "code orange" days — when air quality is considered unhealthy for children and adults with respiratory issues — than it did 20 years ago, there is still much progress to be made to ensure the air is clean and healthy to breathe. Under the new law, buildings across the city will be held accountable for their pollution through taxes in non-renewable utilities and rigorous green building standards.
DC's commitment sets an important precedent for cities around the world, especially those where communities face harmful levels of air pollution on a daily basis. Ambient air pollution can cause a range of respiratory problems, from asthma to lung cancer.
Currently, more than 90% of children breathe air that is toxic enough to put their health and development at risk. In 2016, more than 4 million premature deaths were linked to ambient air pollution in 2016, according to the World Health Organization.
Commitments to reducing air pollution aren't just helping to save the planet — they're helping to save lives.