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Leading by Example – Making the Federal Government More Sustainable

Summary: 
CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley talks about President Obama's announcement that the Federal government would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to co-convene a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and leaders from across the Federal community who are helping to make sustainability a reality for the Federal government.   Following up from President Obama’s announcement on Friday when he set a government-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 28 percent by 2020, I can speak for all who were there when I say there is a lot of excitement in the air!

So what does this goal mean?  Achieving this 28 percent reduction will reduce Federal energy use by 646 trillion BTUs, which is equal to 205 million barrels of oil, or taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.  And this is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020 based on current energy prices.  Now that is impressive.

The next step towards Federal Sustainability is an important one: each agency is developing a “Sustainability Plan” that defines how they’ll meet their GreenGov goals, reduce energy use, drive long-term savings, save taxpayer dollars, and help create local clean energy jobs.

Cities, states, and American businesses have helped to forge the way by showing that greening their operations is not only good for the environment, but good for business; we have ample best practices and lessons to look to from our colleagues around the country.

And Federal Departments and Agencies are already taking actions to achieve greenhouse gas pollution reductions, such as installing solar arrays at military installations, tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in Federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models.   You can view examples of projects that are underway here.

The 28% Federal target announced on Friday is the aggregate of 35 Federal Agency self-reported targets.  For example, the Department of Defense announced it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from non-combat activities by 34% by 2020  and the Department of the Treasury will reduce its emissions by 33%.

We are very excited by the progress that is already occurring, and will continue to watch these developments in the future.  Moving forward, implementation of the Executive Order will focus on integrating achievement of sustainability goals with agency mission and strategic planning.  The goal is to optimize performance and minimize costs.

You will all be able to chart the Federal government’s progress through “scorecards” that will grade each agency on how well it is meeting its performance targets.  And to ensure transparency and accountability, annual progress will be reported online to the public.  I’m looking forward to sharing more updates in the months ahead!

Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality