Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
2016 Better Buildings Summit
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Washington, DC

As prepared for delivery

Good morning everyone! Thank you Secretary Moniz for that kind introduction, and for your great keynote. It's not every day that I get to share the stage with a rock star in the worlds of science and international diplomacy. I want to thank you for your outstanding leadership, and I'd like to recognize everyone here from the Energy Department and from HUD for their terrific work.

I am so happy to be here this morning. To join a room full of trailblazers at the forefront of a 21st century revolution. 

When President Obama took office, he dared our nation to embrace a new era of technology, a new era of energy production, a new era of American innovation. And just 7 years later, the American people have answered the call. The United States now generates 30 times as much solar power as we did back in 2008, and we've tripled the amount of energy we get from wind. In fact, we're the world's number one producer of wind power, and the industry supports nearly 90,000 jobs.

So it's clear that we're making great strides in harnessing the air and the sun, and that we're doing so at near light speeds. But our nation's progress hasn't just come from the renewable energy sector.  It's also come from your hard work.

Folks in state and local government reducing energy costs in public office buildings, and saving taxpayer dollars. Folks from the commercial sector, companies like Best Buy and Starbucks, making energy efficient improvements across their properties. And manufacturers like 3M and Alcoa that're transforming their operations in factories and in plants throughout the nation.

Now I know that not everyone is doing all this just out of the kindness of their heart. Your leadership proves that adopting these standards doesn't just make sense for the environment. It also makes dollars and cents for your bottom line. 

Your work represents the best of what can happen when private industry joins forces with public officials. It saves money, it sparks job growth - it's game changing. And it's creating a Climate of Opportunity that's spreading in communities throughout America.

Expanding this opportunity doesn't stop at the office place, the shopping mall, or the assembly line. At HUD, we recognize the significant role of housing in tackling the realities posed by climate change. And we're proud to stand as an ally in the Better Buildings Challenge.

Every year, residents in multifamily buildings spend around $40 billion on energy costs. So making these units 20% more efficient would save about $8 billion a year for hard-working families, and cut greenhouse emissions by over 430 million tons. 

I'm happy to report that 108 multifamily partners have now signed up for the Better Buildings Challenge, the most for any sector of this Challenge!  Together they account for nearly 700,000 units, and more than 600 million square feet of real estate. And I want to thank each of them for taking on the challenge. 

We're already seeing their commitments pay off in places like Mankato Minnesota, where the local development authority has increased its portfolio-wide energy performance by 13% in the last four years. Folks in Denver have cut annual energy costs at the North Lincoln Homes by 19%, and they've boosted the local economy by purchasing solar panels from a Colorado-based company. 

And this past April, on Earth Day, the New York City Housing Authority joined the Challenge as our largest multifamily partner, and pledged to build 2.5 million square feet of solar panels by 2025. That's enough space to cover nearly 45 football fields.  

NYCHA's new pledge builds on its ongoing work to fund over $100 million in upgrades across nearly 300 developments, a project that will dramatically lower greenhouse emissions, and save millions in taxpayer dollars. And by aiming to fill at least 30% of the jobs it creates with residents of public housing, it should allow New Yorkers of modest means to share in the promise of our green economy.

We're seeing similar efforts across the nation - from Angola, Indiana to Tampa, Florida, to right here in Washington, DC. And we'll keep working until every community can access the economic and environmental benefits these projects provide. 

Earlier this year, the Federal Housing Administration also announced new incentives that encourage HUD-supported multifamily owners to build more energy-efficient housing. These incentives will make green building a no-brainer for thousands of newly insured units. They'll help save energy and water, reduce utility costs, and improve the quality of indoor air. 

And HUD isn't just preparing our nation for a better tomorrow. We're also adapting to the realities that climate change poses right now. 

In the last few years, we've seen intense droughts and wildfires in the West, routine flooding along our Eastern coastline, and devastating tornadoes and storms in Texas and the Midwest. So we partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation on our $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition, a groundbreaking initiative that's helping families in 13 states and communities to better prepare for the next event that may wait beyond the horizon.     

That includes folks like Tom Unsen, a father of two from Dubuque, Iowa. Nearly five years ago, a storm slammed Dubuque with over 14 inches of rain in less than half a day. Tom woke up at 2AM that morning to find more than a foot of water in his basement. The Unsens lost their furnace, their washer and dryer, and countless personal possessions. And repeated flooding has led to permanent damage in the foundation of their home. 

Their story proves that it's time to take decisive action to protect more Americans from extreme weather caused by climate change. Our National Disaster Resilience Competition is part of that solution - for people in Dubuque, and in places across the nation. 

The unfortunate fact is that this work isn't just a luxury. It's a necessity. There's urgency to it. Since 2001, we've witnessed 15 of the 16 warmest years on record. And 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. 

Now, it's true that there are still some who deny climate change. But the vast majority of folks get it. And the need to take action is something that has united people from both sides of the aisle. After all, it was Richard Nixon who started the EPA, and it was George H.W. Bush who became one of the first global leaders to acknowledge the impacts of climate change. 

So I have faith that our nation can rally around this cause. And I'm proud to stand with so many people who understand the importance of the task at hand. When the President launched the Better Buildings Challenge back in 2011, y'all were the first to volunteer and to answer the call. 

And while President Obama will no longer be in office when 2020 rolls around, this mission is bigger than a single Administration. So I challenge you to remain steadfast in fulfilling the vision of the Better Buildings initiative. 

You'll all play a strong role in shaping a brighter future for our nation and our planet. And in doing so, you'll carry on a proud tradition of American pioneers and innovators.

You see, America has always been a nation of firsts. We were the first in the world to build great skyscrapers of steel. We were the first to develop the modern assembly line, and it was Americans who invented the first computer chip. 

Many times in our past, we've seen our determination and our ingenuity elevated by the forces of competition. Back in 1957, when the Soviets launched Sputnik, some feared we'd fallen hopelessly behind in the Space Race. But instead of giving up, we redoubled our efforts, and 12 years later, we became in first people in human history to put a man on the moon. 

Today, that same spirit is propelling our nation toward the cutting edge of a new age. An age that will transform how the world uses renewable energy, and how we'll preserve this planet for those yet to come. Let's make sure it's America - not China, not Germany, not Saudi Arabia - that sets the pace for this 21st century revolution. 

So I want to urge all of y'all to keep persevering, and keep breaking new ground. Keep pushing your CEOs, your Boards, and your investors to rethink their approach to doing business in the 21st century.

Where returns aren't measured solely against the bottom line, but in the investments we make to safeguard the one amazing planet we have. Where building is about more than drawing-up blueprints for construction, but designing a blueprint that helps mankind forge a more sustainable future.  

A future where America leads our world into this new era of innovation, inspiration, and conservation. An era that can begin with the bold action we take today.

Thank you very much, and enjoy the rest of the Summit! 


Content Archived: February 9, 2018