Obama orders 40% cut in federal greenhouse gases by 2025 

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015

President Obama committed the federal government to steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and set the stage for the rollout of a U.S. pledge for climate treaty talks in Paris late this year.

Obama signed an executive order at the White House this morning that obligates federal agencies to cut their carbon dioxide output by 21 million metric tons by 2025, a 40 percent reduction from 2008 levels.

The CO2 reductions would come from improved efficiency of federal buildings and vehicles and from the use of more renewable energy to power federal operations.

The government would draw 25 percent of its power by 2025 from “clean energy sources,” and agencies would cut their fleets’ emissions per vehicle mile traveled by 30 percent by that year from 2014 levels.

As it has done with past climate change announcements, the White House packaged its federal commitment with several voluntary private-sector pledges to reduce emissions.

Fourteen major federal suppliers — including International Business Machines Corp. and security contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. — unveiled new or expanded emission pledges that would remove an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon from 2008 levels by 2025, the White House said.

The White House also announced it will introduce a new emissions scorecard to publicly track self-reported emissions disclosures from all major suppliers. Obama highlighted federal commitments this morning by visiting the Department of Energy’s rooftop solar installation.

At the DOE event, Obama said his executive order was an example of the United States leading by example.

“These are ambitious goals, but we know that they’re achievable goals,” he said.

White House adviser Brian Deese and White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss told reporters that the announcement is a “win-win-win” because it will achieve environmental goals while also reducing the share of agency budgets that goes toward purchasing energy.

“For federal agencies who are looking at how to cover their energy needs, this is a very pragmatic dollars-and-cents issue,” Deese said.

For the Defense Department, in particular, renewable energy can also play a strategic role, he noted, reducing the need to supply military operations with fossil fuels.

House Republicans released a budget this week that took aim at DOD climate programs, calling them wasteful and redundant.

Obama’s moves on federal energy commitments come as Deese and Goldfuss prepare to release the U.S. submission to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change later this month.

That document will flesh out the promise Obama made last November in Beijing to slash economywide U.S. emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That pledge — which was made alongside China’s promise to contain emissions by 2030 — supports efforts to reach an international agreement on climate change in Paris at the end of this year.

Deese sidestepped questions this morning about the role today’s federal emissions commitment will play in the document.

“This announcement is one of several steps that we are taking at the federal level to try to reduce greenhouse gases consistent with the commitment that the U.S. made at the end of last year,” he said, adding that the new federal goal is “a component piece of a much broader set of activities that we’re taking to try to be consistent with that objective.”

The U.S. submission — known as its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution — is expected to note U.S. EPA’s proposed and pending rules for curbing emissions of CO2 and methane, although most observers say it is unlikely to provide much new information on the agency’s rulemaking processes. Land-use issues and state and local contributions to emissions reduction might also be included.

EPA is set to finalize its carbon rules for power plants this summer and has pledged to complete a new rulemaking for methane from future oil and gas operations before Obama leaves office. But fulfilling the overall U.S. pledge will greatly depend on the policies of the next administration.