Declaring the U.S. must “lead by example” in the global fight against climate change, President Obama on Thursday signed an executive order directing the federal government to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next decade.
The order, which comes just a few months before the Environmental Protection Agency releases unprecedented restrictions on power-plant pollution, is the latest step in Mr. Obama’s highly controversial global-warming agenda. The administration did not offer data on what effect the lowering of government emissions would have on global temperatures, but the president said it’s crucial that federal agencies do all they can to forge a path others can follow.
“We thought it was important for us to lead by example at the federal government,” he said during a brief speech at the Department of Energy. “We’re proving it is possible to grow our economy robustly while at the same time doing the right thing for the environment and tackling climate change in a serious way.”
But leading Republicans dismissed the order as yet another attempt to satisfy environmental groups who have been pushing Mr. Obama to make climate change an even bigger priority. Critics say the emissions targets are unrealistic and as much about politics as they are about global warming.
“This latest executive action is not surprising. The White House order issued this morning is simply an optics tactic to appease environmental extremists with no realistic goal to reduce emissions,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “The president’s executive order is clearly a move to advance his personal agenda on climate at the cost of hardworking American taxpayers.”
The White House insists the targets are ambitious but feasible.
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The order requires the government to cut its emissions by 40 percent when compared to 2008 levels. The president also is directing the federal government to get 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
In addition, the order calls for a reduction in carbon pollution from the federal vehicle fleet by at least 30 percent over the next decade.
The federal government is the largest energy user in the nation, according to the White House, operating 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles. Administration officials say that by becoming more energy efficient, the government can aid the environment, promote growth in renewable energy and other sectors of the economy and save taxpayer money by lowering energy costs.
The White House also believes its commitments will inspire similar efforts in the private sector.
“Not only is our [energy] footprint substantial, our influence is as well,” Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters on a conference call Thursday morning.
Indeed, leading companies such as GE, IBM and Honeywell on Thursday also announced plans to further reduce their emissions.
Mr. Obama’s “example” drew praise from environmental groups and from energy-efficiency advocates.
“The president is continuing in his role of energy efficiency champion in chief and has charted an aggressive course of leadership for the federal government that will steer our country toward a sustainable energy future and a more globally competitive economy,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.
⦁ David Sherfinski contributed to this report.