President Obama has issued an executive order calling for the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 2008 levels over the next decade. He also set a target for increasing the government’s use of renewable energy for electricity to 30% by 2025.

The same day Obama released the announcement, several major federal contractors, including CH2M Hill, GE, AECOM, SAIC, Battelle, Honeywell and others made various commitments at a White House roundtable meeting to monitor and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.

The companies represented at the roundtable each do more than $1 billion a year in business with the federal government and together account for about $45 billion in federal contract spending.

White House officials said the sweeping March 19 directive builds on and replaces the president’s 2009 orders on greenhouse gas emission reductions at federal agencies. The administration has already achieved a 17% reduction in GHG emissions and a reduction in energy use of 9% since the 2009 executive orders, according to the White House.

The March 19 order affects not only buildings, but also calls for greater water efficiency and stormwater management—including green roofs and other green infrastructure--on federal properties.

For example, beginning in fiscal 2020, all new federal building construction projects greater than 5,000 gross square feet should be designed to achieve net-zero energy emissions, and where, possible, water or waste net-zero by fiscal 2030. The directive also calls for a percentage of federal agency’s existing buildings to be retrofitted to be energy, waste or water net-zero by fiscal 2025.

Environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and Environment America were quick to praise the president’s action.

But White House officials also highlighted the corporations that committed to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions.
White House Senior Advisor Brian Deese told reporters at a March 19 briefing, “What was striking about having the private sector at the table was we heard from them loud and clear that if the administration and the federal government set standards and focuses incentives on certain innovative technologies, it really drives a lot of investment and a lot of change not only in their companies but throughout their supply chains.”

Deese said that together, the combined results of the federal government actions and supplier commitments will reduce GHG emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year.

Jacqueline Hinman, CEO of CH2M HILL said that in addition to advising clients on ways to mitigate the affects of climate change, “We wanted to set a meaningful internal climate action goal to do our part to mitigate climate impacts… It’s not just good for the environment—it’s also good for business.”