The US government will be a net zero contributor to the climate crisis by 2050 by slashing the planet-heating emissions from its operations and transitioning to an all-electric fleet of cars and trucks, according to a new executive order signed by Joe Biden.
The federal government is the largest land owner, energy consumer and employer in the US and it will “lead by example in tackling the climate crisis”, the White House said, by eliminating greenhouse gases from its activities.
Under the order signed by Biden on Wednesday, the government will cut its emissions by 65% by the end of this decade, before reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
The government’s fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks will be transformed, with all acquisitions of vehicles from 2035 being zero emission versions. For light duty vehicles, this deadline will come earlier, starting in six years’ time.
The order also demands that the 300,000 federally owned buildings produce no net emissions by 2045, with a 50% cut in emissions by 2032. All electricity procured by the government will be from clean sources such as solar and wind by 2030, while all procurement decisions made by the hefty government bureaucracy will be net zero emissions by 2050.
“Through a whole-of-government approach, we will demonstrate how innovation and environmental stewardship can protect our planet, safeguard federal investments against the effects of climate change, respond to the needs of all of America’s communities, and expand American technologies, industries, and jobs,” the president’s order reads.
The executive order will tackle about 15% of all carbon emissions in the US, according to RMI, a non-profit clean energy organization.
“Decarbonizing buildings, ensuring federal investments for infrastructure are targeted for clean, sustainable projects, and driving and informing private investment for clean technology to slash greenhouse gas emissions showcase this administration’s climate priorities,” said Sarah Ladislaw, managing director of RMI’s US program.
“This series of investments takes much-needed steps to capitalize on what we already know: the clean energy transition is critical in tackling climate change and stimulating our economy.”
The commitment is the biggest yet by Biden towards his goal of cutting the US’s overall emissions to net zero by 2050. The president has set other related goals, such as making America’s electricity grid entirely run on renewable energy by 2035 and for half of all car sales in the country to be electric by 2030.
Biden has set out the most ambitious climate agenda of any US president to date, although he has come under criticism from environmental groups recently for calling for an increase in oil production to lower gasoline prices and for offering up vast tracts of land and ocean to oil and gas producers.
Much of the president’s climate agenda rests upon an enormous spending bill that faces a tricky path through the Senate.
The Build Back Better Act has about half a trillion dollars in climate change measures, such as incentives for electric cars, tax credits for renewable energy production and funding to make vulnerable communities more resilient to climate change impacts such as flooding. Analysts have said it will become much harder to avoid disastrous global heating without the sweeping legislation.