US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday to make the federal government carbon neutral by 2050, through a sweeping plan that will transform how the federal agencies get energy, carry out daily functions, engage with businesses, and treat the environment.
The plan is the latest effort by the Biden administration to catalyze a broader shift toward clean energy, zero waste, and environmental regeneration throughout the American economy.
With $650 billion in annual spending on goods and services, the federal government will invest in new technologies, support clean energy providers, and reorient local economies around climate action, according to the announcement.
“President Biden will sign an executive order that demonstrates how the United States will leverage its scale and procurement power to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. “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 executive order maps a variety of initiatives and lays out a timeline for its emissions goals.
By 2030, the federal government will procure 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. By 2035, all vehicles added to the government’s fleet will be electric. By 2045, the 300,000 buildings under federal control will have net zero emissions. And all federal operations will have a net zero impact by 2050.
The executive order requires the government to seek out sustainable alternatives to the products and materials it buys, train and develop a climate-ready workforce, and incorporate principles of environmental justice and equity into all of its programs.
All of these efforts will have ripple effects, according to the White House.
By ordering agencies to buy low-carbon goods and services, entire supply chains will adapt to become more sustainable, thus affecting entire industries. By directing the federal government to procure renewable energy, markets for wind and solar will receive a critical boost in financial support. By retrofitting federal buildings with energy efficiency measures, towns and cities will be given pathways to transforming their infrastructure. And by empowering its 4.2 million workers with the knowledge and skills to mitigate climate change, the executive order will help to create a movement of environmental stewards.
Since taking office, President Biden has pushed for more ambitious climate action at the federal level and vowed to halve the country’s emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
“This is a decisive decade in which we have an opportunity to prove ourselves,” Biden recently said during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference. “We can keep the goal of limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius within our reach if we come together, if we commit to doing our part for each of our nations with determination and with ambition.”
Congress is currently negotiating the passage of legislation that would unlock hundreds of billions of dollars for nationwide infrastructure improvements and other climate action measures.
However, Biden continues to approve fossil fuel projects at a record pace, according to Public Citizen, despite research from the International Energy Agency showing that no new drilling projects can go ahead if countries want to achieve the Paris climate agreement.
“We recognize and appreciate President Biden’s effort," Brooke Harper, US campaign manager of the environmental nonprofit 350.org, said in a statement. "It is imperative that the federal government set an example for a clean energy future and transitioning federal vehicles, buildings, and energy sources is an important step.
“However, we need to see consistency in Biden’s climate efforts on all fronts if he is to be a ‘Climate President,’” she added. “Biden cannot make an announcement like this and also reopen oil and gas leasing, nor approve more oil and gas permits on federal lands. That’s taking one step forward and two steps back.”