Cutting Climate Changing Pollution at Home - Starting with Our Government Agencies

When it comes to protecting our health and communities, what we need to do as a nation is roll up our sleeves and act to tackle every source of climate changing pollution.

That's why President Obama's new executive order to cut federal government agency greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025 is important. It commits our national government to the kind of ambitious pollution cuts that can protect our families' health, create local jobs and save consumers serious money on energy.

Think about it, our federal government's footprint includes 360,000 buildings, 650,000 vehicles and $445 billion in spending on goods and services each year. By ramping up energy efficiency and committing to get 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power over the next 10 years, it's good stewardship of its own resources for the federal government to be part of the climate change solution.

And the plan laid out in the president's order is more than that: Because the federal government is the largest single user of energy in the U.S., the plan is a practical model that other large users--state, tribal and local governments, and big companies can and should follow.

And not only will this new action cut climate changing pollution, over the next 10 years, the initiative will save $18 billion in avoided energy costs. That's right: save $18 billion.

The emissions reduction plan is pretty straightforward. Federal agencies will get 25 percent of their total energy (both electric and thermal) from clean sources by 2025. We'll see a cut in energy use in federal buildings by 2.5 percent a year between now and 2025. And we'll see a reduction in climate changing pollution from federal vehicle fleets by 30 percent, using an increasing number of zero-emissions and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Federal agencies will also reduce water intensity by 2 percent a year since in many parts of the country significant amounts of energy are expended moving water from one place to another.

The executive order is a signal to businesses, large and small, across the country, that there's significant value in investing in clean energy. And many of the nation's largest and most influential firms agree. The White House announcement was accompanied by a White House roundtable that included several of the federal government's largest suppliers--IBM, Honeywell, HP, and Northrup Grumman among them. They're pledging to substantial greenhouse gas reductions in their own operations. Importantly, HP is also promising to significantly cut energy use in its product lines, and, thus, the carbon pollution that comes with them.

The new executive order is a powerful reminder of how much progress we can make through energy efficiency and greater reliance on clean, renewable sources of energy. These new steps are part of the president's overall Climate Action Plan, which includes the EPA's Clean Power Plan to cut by 30 percent by 2030 the carbon pollution that comes from our country's power plants, our largest contributor to climate change. With today's executive order, President Obama takes another step on the path to curbing climate change pollution in the United States and leading globally. It is a path that next needs to include a strengthened federal standard for climate changing pollution from power plants and leadership from states in putting energy efficiency and renewable energy to work to meet these standards.

The executive order shows what we can do as a nation when we set our minds and our hearts to addressing the already dangerous problem of climate change. President Obama deserves credit for once again rolling up his sleeves on this issue and showing the nation all the benefits that can accrue to us--energy cost-savings, new jobs, better public health, and a safer climate for our kids--when we commit ourselves to act.

About the Authors

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Chief Program Officer

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