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‘Lead by Example,’ Obama Says in Push for Greener Federal Buildings

Targets set as part of larger plan to address climate change.

President Obama on Tuesday called on all federal agencies to nearly triple their efforts to make their buildings more energy efficient as part of a wide-ranging plan to combat climate change.

Obama directed agencies consume 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, an increase from the current goal of 7.5 percent. As a more general guidance, Obama said the federal government should “continue to pursue greater energy efficiency that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves taxpayer dollars.”   

“Federal government has to lead by example,” Obama said in a speech at Georgetown University announcing the initiatives. “I’m proud federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent since I took office. But we can do better than that.”

Obama previously targeted federal buildings to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint through the Recovery Act, when it spent $4 billion to convert federal facilities into more environment-friendly buildings. A recent Government Executive analysis, however, found 179 federal buildings used more energy in 2012 than they did in 2011.

The President’s Climate Action Plan said the administration will continue efforts to “increase the resilience of federal facilities and infrastructure.” The Defense Department, for example, is currently assessing the vulnerabilities of its coastal facilities.

“Agencies will also be directed to ensure that climate risk-management considerations are fully integrated into federal infrastructure and natural resource management planning,” the plan reads.

The Defense Department -- the nation’s largest consumer of energy, according to White House -- has also committed to deploying three gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025. Other federal agencies have set a new goal of installing renewable capacity -- such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal technologies -- across federally subsidized housing that will generate 100 megawatts by 2020.

Obama tasked federal government with assisting local governments in promoting more sustainable policies through “climate-resilient investment,” such as grants, technical assistance and other programs.

Another focal point of the plan asks the Environmental Protection Agency to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. At the speech, Obama called on the Senate to confirm his nominee for EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, “without any further obstruction or delay.” 

(Image via Dandesign86/Shutterstock.com)

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