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President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, July 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci) President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, July 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, July 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Sophie Austin
By Sophie Austin July 17, 2020

Trump said Biden wants to mandate net-zero emission buildings and get rid of windows. He’s wrong

If Your Time is short

  • Biden is setting a goal for net-zero carbon emissions for new buildings by 2030.

  • Biden’s task force document doesn’t mention windows at all.

  • Buildings with windows can have net-zero emissions.

At a Rose Garden speech on July 14, President Donald Trump made multiple attacks on Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, saying his policies went too far left.

One of those attacks included an accusation that task force recommendations from Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders included a mandate that would get rid of windows on buildings.

Trump said that Biden plans to "mandate net-zero carbon emissions for homes, offices and all new buildings by 2030. That basically means no windows, no nothing."

The Biden-Sanders recommendations set a goal for having all new buildings achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. They don't say anything about a mandate. The plan also doesn’t mention windows — and the presence of windows in a building does not mean that a building can’t achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

The White House and Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

"Mandate net-zero carbon emissions for homes, offices and all new buildings by 2030."

The Biden and Sanders task force recommends setting a goal to reduce buildings’ impact on climate change, but not a mandate.

This is what the task force recommendation says: "We will set a bold, national goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030." 

That target is included in Biden’s sustainable energy and infrastructure plan, which his campaign released July 14. The plan seeks to achieve a "net-zero emissions standard for all new commercial buildings by 2030." 

The Energy Department defines "zero energy buildings" as those that "combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period."

Residential and commercial buildings contributed to 35% of U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Biden plans to invest in companies to incentivize them to update four million buildings to make them more efficient, according to the task force recommendations. In addition, the task force expects Democrats to work on state and city levels to make buildings more energy efficient.

The Green New Deal, a far-reaching climate proposal introduced in February 2019 by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., set out to upgrade all buildings in the U.S. to make them as energy efficient as possible. The plan wasn’t brought to a vote in the House and failed to advance in the Senate.

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Biden’s clean energy and environmental justice plan, released in June 2019, called the Green New Deal "a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face."

"That basically means no windows, no nothing."

The Democrats’ task force document doesn’t mention windows at all, and buildings with windows can have net-zero emissions.

Steve Capanna, director of U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis at the Environmental Defense Fund said that Trump’s claim that Biden and Sanders want to get rid of windows is "preposterous."

"President Trump’s claim is not accurate," Capanna said. "The Biden-Sanders team certainly is not proposing eliminating windows."

Capanna said that Biden’s target is ambitious, but there are already programs in place that push for energy efficient buildings. Those plans include measures for efficient windows.

The Energy Department’s Zero Energy Ready Home program certifies homes that have more energy-efficient heating and cooling, insulation, and water distribution systems. The department also certifies zero-energy commercial buildings. The agency and the Environmental Protection Agency have a related program to encourage energy-efficient products and practices that includes guidelines for energy-efficient windows.

Efforts to make buildings more energy-efficient don’t center around getting rid of windows. Rather, they include using "sufficiently insulated windows," as outlined by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Capanna said that older, less efficient windows can let warm or cool air escape a building. That contributes to energy loss, "which means you have to heat the building more."

However, improvements that made windows more efficient in recent years include having multiple panes and allowing in more natural light, which reduces the need for artificial light, Capanna said.

Our ruling

Trump said that the Biden-Sanders task force "mandate net-zero carbon emissions for homes, offices and all new buildings by 2030. That basically means no windows, no nothing."

Biden has a net-zero emissions goal for new buildings by 2030, but his plan doesn’t mention a mandate. Neither the task force recommendation nor Biden’s new climate plan say anything about getting rid of windows, and net-zero emissions buildings can have windows (and many do).

Trump’s statement doesn’t align with the facts. We rate it False.

CORRECTION, July 20: This fact-check wrongly described how energy efficient windows allow more light into a building. The post has been updated to clarify that allowing more natural light reduces the need for artificial light.

Our Sources

The White House, Remarks by President Trump in Press Conference, July 14, 2020

Joe Biden for President, Combating the Climate Crisis and Pursuing Environmental Justice, accessed July 16, 2020

PolitiFact, Where 2020 Democrats stand on carbon tax, other climate change policies (updated), August 29, 2019

Congress.gov, H. Res. 109, February 7, 2019

Joe Biden for President, Joe’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice, June 2019

Phone interview with Steve Capanna, director of U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis at the Environmental Defense Fund, July 16, 2020

Email exchange with Andrew Bates, Biden campaign’s director of rapid response, July 16, 2020

U.S. Energy Information Administration, What are U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by source and sector?, May 26, 2020

UN IPCC, Buildings, accessed July 16, 2020

CNN, Fact check: Trump deceives about Sanders-Biden task force proposals to make Biden sound ‘extreme,’ July 15, 2020

U.S. Department of Energy, Zero Energy Buildings, accessed July 17, 2020

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Trump said Biden wants to mandate net-zero emission buildings and get rid of windows. He’s wrong

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