A couple of days ago, the President Obama signed and executive order that will bring about sweeping changes in the Federal Government when it comes to sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions. I had heard a few months ago that this kind of an executive order was in the works. As the press release makes clear, the Federal Government is not small. It’s the largest consumer of energy in the US economy.
“The Federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services. These buildings, these ‘vehicles’, these civilians, these purchases are being put on a path to be leaders in fostering a path toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future.”
This is more energy intensive than most countries.
So what exactly will the order do? Well on greenhouse gas emissions we will know within 90 days, as each agency will have that period of time to set a target for 2020. However, there are a number of other important requirements, many of which will significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, that are impressive.
- 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
- 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
- 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
- 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;
- Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;
- Implementation of the stormwater provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, section 438; and
- Development of guidance for sustainable Federal building locations in alignment with the Livability Principles put forward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency
When it comes to the emissions targets, the most important agency will be the Department of Defense, because that is by far the largest and most energy intensive agency in the government.
On a strategic level, it’s a good move to bring a significant fraction of the US economy under greenhouse gas emissions targets. This is one more tool in the toolbag that the US can take to Copenhagen in December to demonstrate that we are committed to leading on combating global warming. Ultimately, we need the Senate to pass the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act and have a nationwide target and system going. Until then, actions such as record clean energy and mass transit spending from the stimulus and the budget, new incentives and tax credits for clean tech, new fuel economy standards set by the EPA, attempts to end fossil fuel subsidies, and the passage of ACES through the House along with all of the states in the country under some kind of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or statewide emissions target should be a good indication that we’re moving in the right direction.
There is still a ton more to do. This executive order is another step in the right direction.