Obama Orders Agencies to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Significantly

Obama signs the executive order, as Senior Adviser Brian Deese and Federal Chief Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt look on. Obama signs the executive order, as Senior Adviser Brian Deese and Federal Chief Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt look on. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

President Obama on Thursday directed federal agencies to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, and to further decrease their dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

Obama’s executive order gives agencies 10 years to cut their emissions by 40 percent over 2008 levels. It also directs them to increase the share of electricity they obtain from renewable sources to 30 percent over the same time period.

“These are ambitious goals, but we know that they’re achievable goals,” Obama said in announcing the order at the Energy Department.

In a fact sheet accompanying the announcement, the White House noted that major companies accounting for about $45 billion in federal contract spending have made their own commitments to reduce emissions. The companies combined have pledged to cut greenhouse gases by 5 million metric tons between 2008 and 2020, according to the fact sheet.

“Because of the prominence of many of the companies here, and the fact that they’ve got a whole bunch of suppliers up and down the chain, what you do with respect to energy efficiency is going to have a ripple effect throughout the economy,” Obama said.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has developed a score card to track large federal contractors’ progress on cutting emissions.

Other steps federal agencies will take to grow more green include: reducing energy use in government buildings by 2.5 percent annually for the next decade; decreasing water intensity in federal buildings by 2 percent each year through 2025; cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the federal vehicle fleet by 30 percent over 2014 levels by 2025; increasing the share of hybrid and zero emission vehicles in Uncle Sam’s fleet; and ensuring that one-quarter of total (electric and thermal) energy consumption is from clean sources by 2025.

Thursday’s directive builds off of a 2009 executive order that has resulted in agencies reducing emissions by 17 percent and increasing their share of renewable energy consumption to 9 percent, the White House said.

The Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency and General Services Administration will take the lead in implementing the new order.  

“GSA is proud to be a federal leader in the administration’s effort to address climate change, and will work hard to remain a leader in this effort by not just meeting the new 2025 targets, but going beyond them,” acting Administrator Denise Turner Roth said in a statement. “We have already exceeded some of the targets set by the previous executive order and we are confident we can do it again.”

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