Saturday, January 30, 2010

President Obama Orders 28% Reduction in Government Greenhouse Gas Emissions

President Obama announced yesterday that the Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28 percent by 2020. Every federal agency has been ordered to send a sustainability plan to the White House by June explaining how they will meet this ambitious goal.

The announcement came after a review of GHG emissions by all federal agencies that began when the President signed Executive Order 13514 back in October 2009.

A 28% reduction in GHG emissions would have a tremendous impact on overall emissions in the US, because the federal government is the largest single energy user in the country. It would reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil or taking 17 million cars of the road for one year. It is expected to save a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs.

Key to the success of the GHG reduction program is measuring and verifying actual reductions in energy consumption and GHG emissions. The Executive Order requires agencies to measure greenhouse gas emissions and to maintain a greenhouse gas inventory -- in other words, their carbon footprint. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley emphasized this point, telling reporters, "You can't manage what you can't measure."

Compliance with the measurement and reporting requirements will have a significant impact on virtually every company that does business with the federal government. For example, Section 2(h) of the Executive Order directs each federal agency to ensure that 95% of new contracts for products and services (except weapon systems) are energy efficient (e.g., Energy Star), water efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable, non-ozone depleting; contain recycled content; and are non-toxic or a low-toxic alternatives. It will be up to the supplier to prove that their products meet these criteria.

The General Services Administration (GSA) is required to give the White House additional procurement recommendations by April of this year. The GSA is considering:
  • requiring vendors and contractors to register with a voluntary registry or organization for reporting greenhouse gas emissions;
  • requiring contractors, as part of a new or revised registration under the Central Contractor Registration or other tracking system, to develop and make available its greenhouse gas inventory and description of efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions;
  • using Federal Government purchasing preferences or other incentives for products manufactured using processes that minimize greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • other options for encouraging sustainable practices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
When President Obama first signed the Executive Order last year, the White House issued a press release announcing that it was intended to "leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies."

The message to private business is clear: If you want some of that purchasing power to come your way, then you better start measuring and documenting your carbon footprint, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices.

John Howley
Orlando, Florida

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