US President Joe Biden has issued an executive order directing the federal government to achieve five ambitious goals that include 100% carbon-free electricity by the end of this decade and net-zero emissions by 2050.
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At least one half of the carbon-free power will be locally supplied clean energy including solar and wind to meet around-the-clock demand, according to the six-page order, with the order settings an interim 2030 target for 65% emissions reduction from overall federal operations with the remaining 35% achieved over the following two decades.
Other goals include a net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045 including a 50% reduction by 2032, and 100% zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) acquisitions by 2035, and net-zero emissions from federal procurement, also by mid-century.
“The federal government faces broad exposure to the mounting risks and costs already posed by the climate crisis,” said Biden in the order.
“As the single largest landowner, energy consumer, and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyse private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings, and other operations to be clean and sustainable,” he added.
The federal government owns about 306,000 buildings and leases a further 55,000, according to the US general services administration, an independent agency that helps manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. It also owns a fleet of 600,000 automobiles and trucks and has $650bn in annual purchasing power.
In an apparent reference to openly anti-renewables predecessor Donald Trump, Biden wrote that his order will “re-establish the federal government as a leader in sustainability”.
In addition to setting targets for reducing emissions in buildings, electricity usage, and transportation, the order also directs the federal government to orient its procurement and operations efforts with five climate-oriented principles.
These include accelerating progress through domestic and international partnerships; achieving climate-resilient infrastructure and operations; advancing environmental justice and equity; building a climate and sustainability focused workforce, and prioritising the purchase of sustainable products.
The White House asserted that by transforming how the federal government builds, buys and manages its assets and operations, it will Biden’s push to build a domestic clean energy manufacturing base and help achieve his 2035 target for a carbon-free electric grid.
Biden’s actions drew a favourable reaction from clean energy advocacy groups.
“President Biden’s executive action reflects the strong commitment from the top to accelerate the clean energy transition and responsibly tackle the climate crisis,” said Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy.
“This directive will help catalyse the development of thousands of megawatts of new pollution-free power, leading to a cleaner grid and more good-paying jobs for American workers.”
Liz Burdock, CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, said: “This executive order adds greater urgency to accelerate the growth and adoption of the US offshore wind industry and its supply chain.
“By directing the US government to move to 100% carbon pollution-free electricity with a focus on installations and vehicles, the Biden administration will drive more federal agencies to consider direct power purchase agreements and propel additional investments in the US supply chain manufacturing of components for offshore wind installations.”