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New data reveals government's carbon footprint

Apr. 28, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Seeking to cut their carbon footprints, some federal agencies are offering bike-share memberships to their employees. Above, bikes in a rack outside the Office of Personnel Management offices in September 2010.
Seeking to cut their carbon footprints, some federal agencies are offering bike-share memberships to their employees. Above, bikes in a rack outside the Office of Personnel Management offices in September 2010. (Timothy Grant / Office of Personnel Management)

The federal government's total carbon footprint is 123.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to new government data.

That includes emissions generated directly by federal buildings and vehicles as well as those generated indirectly, such as those caused by contractors and employees commuting to and from work.

The Obama administration released the government's greenhouse gas emissions figures Thursday, saying they represent the first comprehensive assessment of the government's carbon footprint.

President Obama has called on all agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to shrink the government's overall carbon footprint. Direct emissions are to be cut by 28 percent by 2020 from a 2008 baseline; indirect emissions by 13 percent in the same period.

But only about half of those emissions 66.4 million metric tons are subject to reduction targets. The rest are generated in support of military operations and law enforcement efforts, and are not subject to reduction goals.

Of the emissions subject to reduction goals, roughly a quarter 17.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are indirect emissions and subject to the 13 percent reduction goal.

The federal government has already reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million metric tons from a 2008 baseline, according to Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.

The Defense Department accounts for 86.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, more than 70 percent of all government greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon emissions. About 40 percent of that amount is subject to reduction goals.

Sutley said in a blog post Thursday that by collecting this data, federal agencies will know better what they must do to reduce emissions.

"While we have already seen progress, there is more to do over the next 10 years to meet the president's 2020 GHG pollution reduction goal, and these numbers provide us the necessary information to ensure the federal government is on track to meet this important goal," she said.

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