A new report out Tuesday reveals that investing $500 billion in making U.S. residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient would benefit the planet, save money, and create millions of jobs.\u0022This substantial investment would reap dramatic economic benefits, create good jobs that foster a fair and just transition to clean energy, reduce energy use, and save money—all while reducing climate emissions.\u0022—Food \u0026amp; Water Watch\u0022Residential and commercial buildings are considerable power hogs, accounting for 39 percent of U.S. energy use, more than either the industrial or transportation sectors,\u0022 explains the environmental group Food \u0026amp; Water Watch in Building Climate Justice: Investing in Energy Efficiency for a Fair and Just Transition (pdf).While acknowledging scientists\u0026#039; increasingly urgent warnings about the necessity of rapidly transitioning global energy systems away from fossil fuels in favor of clean renewables like solar and wind, the report focuses on the far-reaching and positive consequences of improving the energy efficiency of buildings across the country.Food \u0026amp; Water Watch lays out the impact of investing about $33.3 billion a year in a nationwide initiative from 2020 to 2035. That funding, along with \u0022aggressive and robust energy efficiency policies,\u0022 would be complementary to broader efforts designed to curb planet-warming emissions and prevent climate catastrophe.Researchers found that \u0022this substantial investment would reap dramatic economic benefits, create good jobs that foster a fair and just transition to clean energy, reduce energy use, and save money—all while reducing climate emissions.\u0022Food \u0026amp; Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter tied the report\u0026#039;s recommendations to the national discussion about climate policies, including the Green New Deal resolution introduced earlier this year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).\u0022With all the talk about a Green New Deal, one critical piece of any effective climate policy that has largely been left out of the conversation is energy efficiency,\u0022 Hauter said. \u0022It is the low-hanging fruit in terms of technological feasibility and cost-benefit gain.\u0022\u0022Energy efficiency has enormous potential to create millions of jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and save American families money on their energy bills—a real win-win-win.\u0022—Sen. Bernie SandersResponding to the report, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement from Food \u0026amp; Water Watch, \u0022Energy efficiency has enormous potential to create millions of jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and save American families money on their energy bills—a real win-win-win.\u0022Sanders, a cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution who is seeking the Democratic Party\u0026#039;s nomination for the 2020 presidential race, added, \u0022We must immediately come together to take bold action to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.\u0022By 2035, building upgrades would cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 million metric tons, compared with current projections, and cumulatively reduce utility bills by an estimated $1.3 trillion, according to the report.\u0022Both the investment and the savings on utility bills,\u0022 it states, \u0022would spur economic growth and job creation—necessary for a fair and just transition for fossil fuel workers and a needed economic jolt to America\u0026#039;s communities that have not shared in the economic growth over the past 40 years.\u0022This plan could generate more than 20 million full-times jobs, boosting U.S. job creation by about 20 percent, and \u0022the majority of these jobs would be high-quality construction and manufacturing jobs that can support families and provide future career opportunities.\u0022Food \u0026amp; Water Watch emphasizes the importance of supporting workers whose jobs will be lost in the transition away from fossil fuels, specifically calling for \u0022100 percent wage and benefit insurance for five years to ensure that workers and their families do not face catastrophic economic shocks from job displacement.\u0022In addition to outlining the benefits of funding energy efficiency improvements, the report also features a blueprint for upgrading buildings. \u0022Existing buildings need to be retrofitted and upgraded,\u0022 it says, \u0022and states and localities must update building codes to ensure that new construction maximizes energy efficiency.\u0022Suggestions for both new and existing structures include: weatherizing building envelopes to prevent heating and cooling leaks; upgrading heating and cooling equipment; modernizing lighting; and replacing inefficient appliances and devices.The report urges Congress to:fully fund the Weatherization Assistance Program to upgrade all eligible homes by 2035;target investments in socially and economically disadvantaged areas and in environmental justice communities with disproportionate pollution burdens;robustly invest in upgrading the energy efficiency of all federal buildings;expand funding for energy efficiency research at the Department of Energy;strengthen and require regular upgrades to mandatory energy efficiency requirements for appliances, building shell technologies and other equipment, as well as further incentivize efficiency improvements; andprovide sufficient incentives for building owners to upgrade the efficiency of their appliances, equipment, and buildings.States and localities, according to the report, should \u0022ensure that landlords and owners of multi-family housing make retrofits and keep their tenants\u0022; \u0022invest in energy-efficient technology by allocating their own grants and other monetary incentives to local companies and communities\u0022; and \u0022strengthen and regularly upgrade building codes to ensure that newly constructed buildings are energy-efficient.\u0022\u0022For the sake of our planet and economy,\u0022 the report concludes, \u0022energy efficiency must be a national and regional priority in the United States.\u0022This post has been updated with the proposed annual investment from a newer version of the report.