Executive Order 13514 on federal sustainability

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Verisae

How does this climate change order differ from Bush era orders?

It is said that the federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the United States. As such we can deduce that it is one of the biggest contributors to the problem of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a significant contributor to the problem of global climate change.

The executive order on climate change was issued shortly after Obama took one of his first real steps onto the climate-related world stage. Much criticism was leveled at the United States, during the United Nations summit in New York, as there seemed little fresh from the new administration.

President Obama, in his unwieldy position of polluter in chief, has just issued a brand-new federal sustainability Executive order 13514, to directly address the carbon footprint of the federal government and to set standards that he hopes others will adhere to.

The world community had seen hardly any movement from the Bush administration over the preceding eight years and there was much anticipation that the new executive would move sharply forward. Instead, there seemed to be a significant silence from the USA, especially when measured alongside major commitments from emerging nations, such as China.

Understanding the difficulty of setting lofty reduction goals and gauging an adequate response, the executive order seeks to put the ball squarely in the court of each government agency heads. Within 90 days of the signing of the order, each agency head must submit a projected figure, representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years.

For the first time, each agency is required to maintain a greenhouse gas inventory, which when fully collated and delivered to the president next year, will represent the first time that we have been able to see the actual size of the federal government's carbon footprint.

While President George W. Bush issued executive order 13423 covering climate change issues, the significant difference between the Obama Executive Order on climate change and the previous one concerned the focus on the primary problem - greenhouse gas reduction.

Executive Order 13423 merely stated that greenhouse gas reductions would be “realized” as a consequence of the other goals contained within the order. This particular Executive Order assumed that the reduction would be significant, even though there were no clear guidelines for its measurement.

Obama's Executive Order 13514 focuses mainly on an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and requires each agency to immediately assess its scope one and scope two emissions, for which it is essentially directly responsible for and in the medium term to work with vendors and suppliers to assess its scope three emissions, which historically have been a lot harder to determine.

As world leaders are scheduled to gather in Copenhagen to hammer out the successor to the landmark Kyoto Protocol, Obama's Executive Order 13514 on climate changes can be seen as positive ammunition in the arsenal of the United States, even as legislation addressing carbon emissions seems to be bouncing around the United States Congress.

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