The Challenge

Shelter and heat are life and death issues in cold Midwestern states. But not all of our buildings offer equal protection or quality of life. Many residents are faced with unaffordable rent and utility bills, particularly in low-income and under-resourced neighborhoods and communities of color. The fossil fuels that provide much of the energy to Midwestern buildings also harm residents with dangerous indoor air pollution and major carbon emissions.

The US is turning a corner in electricity production, cutting carbon steadily for years. Meanwhile, commercial, and residential building emissions continue to increase. Burning natural gas and propane in buildings is about 14% of greenhouse gases released in the Midwest. In the region’s urban areas, these fuels can be 30% or more of greenhouse gas emissions. To respond to the climate crisis, we must bend the curve of building emissions dramatically, as we have with power generation.

Building Decarbonization:

Converting appliances like furnaces, water heaters, and stoves from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-free electricity.

Includes energy efficiency & weatherization. But without electrification, efficiency can only reduce emissions, not eliminate them.

Building decarbonization is urgent. We must reduce the health, safety, and economic impacts of climate change and air pollution. Equally important is how we get there. We must collaborate equitably to center Environmental Justice communities who have been ignored, polluted, and pushed into unaffordable housing and debt. We must grow relationships and capacity to embody the principles of Environmental Justice while transforming policies, markets, and buildings in the Midwest.

The Opportunity

Transitioning Midwestern buildings to carbon-free, renewable electricity has the potential to reduce utility costs, increase housing affordability, improve residents’ health and safety, and help state and local governments achieve climate goals. The Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition (Midwest BDC) supports equitable deep decarbonization strategies to address the regional challenges of cold climates and purple state politics. The Coalition engages in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Equity First and Carbon-Free

The energy transition is inevitable. Justice is not. The Coalition is developing equity commitments for every area of our work. Our leadership and working groups are representative of and accountable to members and organizations representing Environmental Justice communities.

The Coalition will facilitate the move to carbon-free building systems and appliances. Equity is not a separate goal from decarbonization. In fact, we believe that without centering the needs of the most marginalized people and communities, our efforts to achieve carbon-free buildings will be counterproductive.

We recognize major opportunities like heat pumps, district energy, induction cooking, and high-performance building design. However, we are invested in equity and carbon elimination, not advancing one carbon-free technology over another.

Areas of Work

The MWBDC currently conceives of work in five areas. The Coalition’s work is Equity First, incorporating equity concerns and prioritization into all other workstreams.

  1. Equity: Engage state advocates, affordable housing and renters’ rights groups, and environmental and climate justice communities to ensure that the Coalition’s work benefits communities most harmed and left out by environmental and economic racism. Create accountability to equity commitments in every area of work.
  2. Market Transformation: Support electrification of space and water heating and cooking through strategic engagement with utilities, rural electric cooperatives, building developers and contractors, appliance and furnace manufacturers, financial institutions, and other partners.
  3. Consumer Inspiration: Catalyze consumer education, engagement, and excitement around electrification, heat pumps, and induction cooking.
  4. Public Policy: Assist in developing policy proposals and evidence for action in State legislatures, regulatory venues, and local governments.
  5. Research: Identify and support short- and long-term research needs to address building decarbonization challenges and unanswered questions.


The Midwest BDC was founded in 2019 to play a leadership role convening stakeholders and allies around a regional decarbonization strategy. The Energy Foundation generously provided our seed funding.

Get Involved

We host a Coalition orientation the 4th Tuesday of every month. Click here for upcoming Orientations.