WASHINGTON, DC, October 7, 2009 (ENS) – President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order Monday that requires federal agencies to set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 within 90 days.

The Executive Order also requires federal agencies to increase their energy efficiency, reduce the petroleum consumption of their fleets, conserve water, reduce waste, support sustainable communities, and leverage their federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies,” said President Obama.

“This Executive Order builds on the momentum of the Recovery Act to help create a clean energy economy and demonstrates the federal government’s commitment, over and above what is already being done, to reducing emissions and saving money,” he said.

The new Executive Order makes reducing greenhouse gas emissions a priority for the federal government, which 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.

In his order, President Obama requires agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets, including:

  • 30 percent reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
  • 26 percent improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
  • 50 percent recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
  • 95 percent 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.

Within 180 days of the order, the federal government also will develop guidance for locating federal buildings in a manner consistent with sustainable development.

Implementation of the Executive Order will focus on integrating achievement of sustainability goals with agency mission and strategic planning to optimize performance and minimize implementation costs.

Stephen Russell, associate at World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, said federal agencies will have to rely upon a set of principles based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s Public Sector Standard developed this summer by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development.

Headquarters of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy DOT)

“Globally, the government sector is responsible for a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and the executive order sets an important milestone and example for the management of these emissions,” said Russell. “Based on over 10 years of work on greenhouse gas accounting, the Public Sector Standard is central to helping governments meet their climate goals.”

The Public Sector Protocol explains how public sector agencies can develop inventories of greenhouse gas emissions. It details accounting procedures, such as determining what emission sources should be included in an inventory, and how emission reduction targets can be set and tracked over time. It adapts the core accounting principles found in the WRI greenhouse gas Corporate Standard to the unique organizational and structural needs of public agencies at the local, state and federal levels.

Implementation will be managed through the previously-established Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, working in close partnership with the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality and the agencies.

Some recent examples of federal environmental stewardship include the planned construction of a 600-kilowatt wind turbine at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The 600-kW turbine installation, to be completed in spring 2011, is projected to supply up to 15 percent of the facility’s annual electricity usage.

In Lakewood, Colorado, the U.S. General Services Administration’s Denver Federal Center will be installing a seven megawatt photovoltaic system as part of a modernization effort. The project will provide a reliable utility infrastructure to service tenant agencies for the next 50 years. Covering 30 acres, the giant solar system will feed renewable energy back into the grid on weekends.

The Executive Order follows the president’s Proclamation of October as National Energy Awareness Month. The president called on the people of the United States to mark the month by making clean energy choices that can both rebuild our economy and make it more sustainable.

Noting that the federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the United States, Obama said in the proclamation his administration is committed to lead by example in the use of clean energy and energy efficiency.

“We face a turning point in our Nation’s energy policy,” Obama said in the Proclamation. “We can either remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy technology. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc, or we can create jobs deploying low-carbon technologies to prevent its worst effects.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.