Monday, May 4, 2015

Federal Manager: 3 steps to get your agency closer to GHG neutrality

Our national federal sustainability target, as outlined in ExecutiveOrder (EO) 13514, was 28 percent reduction (from 2008 levels) in greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2020. Last month, the President signed EO 13693, taking that target to 40 percent by 2025.   

I have found two reports (one from Germany, the other from Australia) that I found particularly interesting and applicable to federal managers seeking ways to minimize emission.
Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (Umwelt Bundesamt) considered the possibility of Germany becoming an entirely GHG-neutral country by 2050. The authors of the October 2013 report, Germany2050: A greenhouse gas–neutral county, contend that GHG-neutrality is entirely feasible, recognizing that Germany is a highly developed industrial nation and without diminishing the current standard of living or forcing changes in consumer behaviors. Of course for the technically feasible to become a reality will require continued technological innovation and national-level investments in infrastructure.

Taking another environmentally friendly example from our allies down under, the Australians are proving that sustainability is entirely possible within government operations. In the August 2014 CarbonNeutral ACT (Australian Capital Territory) GovernmentFramework, the Australian Minister of the Environment outlines specific actions that will effectively eliminate the government’s carbon footprint within the capital region—within the next 5 years. The Australian focus is on switching to energy sources with much lower emissions, undertaking carbon sequestration, and enabling carbon offsets.

After reading these two reports, and after conducting my own research for school, I believe a federal manager can take small actions that may help push their agency beyond the current 40 percent reduction target. Consider the following three actions as a great start:

1)      Monitor and report emissions. Employ the same data management tools you currently use to report on budget goals to report on emission levels. What isn’t measured isn’t changed.

2)      Set target emission budgets for each division, department, and supplier. Small differences across the agency will add up to significant reductions, but it is important to keep everyone accountable.

3)      Upgrade rather than repair outdated technology. Include upgrades (a percentage each year) in your agency’s maintenance plan and budget.
Overall, if we align the government’s budget process with a carbon budget we can quickly reduce the levels of environmentally harmful emissions and save money. It should be the goal of every federal manager to be good stewards of both taxpayer money and the environment. 

Maggie Wise is a communications specialist with more than 2 decades producing reports, white papers, blogs, articles, and other content of interest to government managers. She works hard to keep communications concise, logical, and easy-to-comprehend, ensuring the true message is not lost to the technical details. She is passionate about finding practical solutions to the problem of climate change. Follow Maggie on Twitter @maggieswise.

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