In case you missed it, President Biden signed an executive order and launched the Federal Sustainability Plan last week, demonstrating how the federal government will leverage its scale and procurement power to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis. The executive order will reduce emissions across federal operations, invest in American clean energy industries and manufacturing, and create clean, healthy, and resilient communities. The President is building on his whole-of-government effort to tackle the climate crisis in a way that creates well-paying jobs, grows industries, and makes the country more economically competitive.
Highlights from press coverage are below:
Achieving a 65% emissions reduction from Federal Operations by 2030,
Net-Zero Emissions by 2050
President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order to make the federal government carbon-neutral by 2050, aiming for a 65 percent reduction in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an all-electric fleet of car and trucks five years later.
The 2050 deadline for carbon neutrality is in line with what scientists have found is necessary globally to prevent catastrophic climate change. And it reflects the president’s broader goals to slash greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Under the Paris Agreement, the US agreed to cut its emissions by up to 52 percent this decade compared to 2005 levels.
There’s a growing urgency to reduce planet-warming pollution at the federal level. Experts have determined that global carbon emissions need to drop by half this decade and reach close to zero by the middle of the century in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and prevent some of the most devastating effects of climate change.
As part of the order, each federal agency must reduce its scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions, including by setting targets for fiscal year 2030. Agencies must also develop or revise policies to promote climate-resilient investment that helps the government adapt to climate change.
Using 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030, at least half of which
will be locally supplied clean energy to meet 24/7 demand
From his earliest days in office, Mr. Biden said he intended to use the federal government as a model and to help spur the markets for green energy. The executive orders signed Wednesday set a timetable for the transition. By 2030, Mr. Biden wants the federal government to purchase electricity produced only from sources that do not emit carbon dioxide, the most plentiful of the human-caused greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.
The 2030 carbon-free power goal is on a net-annual basis, but it also calls for 50% of the power to be emissions-free on a 24/7 basis and “produced within the same regional grid where the energy is consumed.” Procuring enough clean power from somewhere, through various purchasing structures, to theoretically meet annual aggregate demand is one thing. Not drawing any power from fossil resources on an hourly basis is an emerging challenge that can help deeply decarbonize grids, but is also much tougher to pull off. It’s one that some companies and local governments are taking on, with Google hoping to have its operations run 24/7 on clean power by 2030.
If successful, the market power the US government holds could give a serious financial boost to clean energy technologies—similar to what the Chinese government is currently doing with their 2060 net-zero goals, Joshua Freed, senior vice president for climate and energy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic research group, told the New York Times.
Achieving 100% Zero-Emission Light-Duty Vehicle Acquisitions by 2027
Administration officials said the size of the federal fleet alone — which includes some 645,000 vehicles — could lower the cost of electric vehicles, batteries and other technology. Just as the green building certification process known as LEED nudged private developers toward eco-friendly construction, a government-wide effort to cut emissions could shape the public’s tastes and buying habits.
Reaching Net-Zero Emissions Procurement by 2050
The federal government will also pursue a “Buy Clean” policy to encourage using construction materials made with fewer carbon emissions and avoid products with added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, so-called forever chemicals linked to cancer and found in U.S. drinking water supplies. It calls for ensuring all procurement meets net-zero marks by 2050.
The EO directs GSA to track greenhouse gas emissions, emissions reduction targets and other sustainability-related actions from major federal suppliers, and will work with CEQ to reduce emissions from the federal supply chain.
Achieving a 50% Buildings Emissions Reduction by 2032
In addition to increasing their use of renewable power, Biden is ordering agencies to cut the greenhouse gas emissions of all their existing buildings, campuses, and physical installations in half over the next decade. By 2045, all federal buildings must be carbon neutral. To achieve this, agencies will have to renovate or retrofit existing buildings, taking actions like improving energy efficiency, or, in some cases, by installing solar panels and other carbon neutral technologies on their premises to achieve net-zero.
Newly-built facilities must also avoid carbon emissions. To help with that goal, the current administration will set the first-ever Federal Building Performance Standard, and will create a “Buy Clean” task force, which will identify highly polluting construction materials, like steel or cement, and then make recommendations to acquire lower-emissions materials.