The Obama administration announced on Friday, January 29, 2010 the federal government would reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28 percent by 2020 from 2008 levels. The emissions reduction pledge is a result of an executive order Obama signed in October, which covers 35 government agencies. The agencies have to submit plans to the Office of Management and Budget by June for meeting the emissions reduction target.
In 2008, the federal government spent over $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel, Obama said in a statement. “As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” Obama said. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”
The federal government operates over 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles, according to Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
“President Obama recognizes that it’s the federal government’s responsibility to lead by example in sustainability and on our efforts to build a clean-energy economy,” Sutley told reporters. She added that the plan aims to save $8 billion to $11 billion in energy costs through 2020. Completing the plan would amount to reducing 88 million metric tons of GHG emissions by 2020, equivalent to taking 17 million vehicles off the road for a year.
The announcement came a day after Obama submitted a pledge to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. It will require congressional approval.
Obama said during his State of the Union address last week that the nation which “leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation.” He added, “We need to encourage American innovation. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy.”.
“It’s one of the things government can do to set an example – and something the president is able to do without waiting for Congress to get its act together,” said David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s climate center. “Obviously this by itself is not sufficient, but it is a welcome step for the government to come up with a specific reduction plan. I suspect they will find that they can do even better. But 28 percent is still a meaningful number.