On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to reduce the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent (from 2008 levels) by 2025.
“We’re proving that it is possible to grow our economy robustly while at the same time doing the right thing for our environment and tackling climate change in a serious way,” the President said after announcing the order at the U.S. Energy Department. “America once again is going to be leading by example.”
This order builds on the momentum of the President’s 2010 directive, which called for a 28 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2020. Thus far, the federal government has cut its emissions 17 percent since 2008, according to Christy Goldfuss, the managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, putting it well on its way to meeting that goal.
“That’s what’s motivating us today to chart out a new and even more aggressive goal going forward,” she told The Huffington Post.
While the federal government’s share of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions is relatively small (less than one percent in 2013, according to The New York Times), the commitment serves to further underscore the President’s position on man-made climate change. As Obama declared in his 2015 State of the Union address, “No challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
While that position is adamantly denied by several prominent Republican Congressmen, it has not stopped Obama from doing what he can to evade the partisan politicking of the legislature and “leading by example,” as he and his staff have repeatedly told the press. Such was the case when President Obama negotiated a joint plan with Chinese President Xi Jinping to manage their countries’ carbon emissions.
“These goals will make sure the federal government is leading by example and pushing the envelope on cutting emissions,” senior advisor to the president Brian Deese told reporters on Thursday.
Though emitting less than one percent of the country’s greenhouse gases, the federal government remains the single largest energy user in the U.S. Goldfuss has stated that the fed operates 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles, which racks up quite a cost. In 2008, the government spent nearly $25 billion on electricity and fuel. By achieving its reduction target, it will save an estimated eight to eleven billion in avoided energy costs, over 600 trillion BTUs of energy and 205 million barrels of oil.
Industrial operations on federal-owned lands also significantly contribute to GHG emissions apart from federal use. The Center for American Progress has calculated that taxpayer-owned gas, oil and coal extracted from federal lands and waters by private companies accounts for 20 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
And because this emissions reduction will create ripples across the private sector, the White House has also created an emissions scorecard that tracks the emissions of its major contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard and Royal Dutch Shell.