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The White House
For Immediate Release

Obama Administration Releases Federal Agency Climate Plans on Fifth Anniversary of Presidential Sustainability Initiative


Agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent since 2008

Washington, D.C. -- As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, Federal agencies today released their plans for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, severe weather and temperature extremes. These agency Sustainability Plans and Climate Change Adaptation Plans coincide with the fifth anniversary of the President’s 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, which set aggressive energy, climate and environmental targets for agencies, and detail how their actions have already reduced the Federal Government’s direct greenhouse gas emissions by more than 17 percent since 2008 – the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road.

“Under President Obama’s leadership, Federal agencies have already made significant progress in cutting carbon pollution, improving energy efficiency, and preparing for the impacts of climate change,” said Mike Boots, who leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “These agency climate plans underscore the Administration’s commitment to leading by example throughout the Federal Government so we can leave behind a planet that is not polluted and damaged and protect our ability to provide the vital services American communities depend on.”

To recognize extraordinary achievement in pursuit of the President’s Federal sustainability goals, the White House today also announced the winners of the 2014 GreenGov Presidential Awards, honoring Federal agency teams and individuals who are taking innovative approaches to curbing waste, reducing energy use and saving taxpayer money in Federal agency operations.  And to seek the best ideas for new climate and sustainability initiatives from the Federal community, the White House today launched the GreenGov Challenge, an online tool for Federal employees from across the country to suggest and vote on ideas for new ways to meet the President’s sustainability goals. 

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

When he laid out his Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution, prepare communities for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to reduce emissions, the President reiterated his commitment to leading by example in the Federal Government. The climate change impacts that are hitting communities across the country – ranging from more severe droughts and wildfires to record heat waves and damaging storms – are also affecting Federal facilities, operations and resources.  The President directed agencies to assess their vulnerabilities to these impacts in Climate Change Adaptation Plans and outline how they will protect Federal programs and taxpayer investments. 

For example, the Department of Defense recently released its plan, which found that climate change is a national security “threat multiplier” that could exacerbate global challenges from infectious disease to terrorism; that coastal military installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding; and that droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could endanger training activities.  Today, 38 agencies ranging from the Department of Justice to the Department of the Interior released plans detailing how climate change is expected to affect their missions and operations.  Examples include:

  • The National Park Service reports climate change is already affecting its ability to conserve park resources and that climate change will fundamentally alter iconic features of parks.  Glacier National Park has lost more than 83 percent of its glaciers since 1850, and experts predict the remaining glaciers will disappear as soon as 2030.  In other locations, climate change effects such as temperature extremes and sea level rise may impact park accessibility, safety and visitor experiences. 
  • The Department of Agriculture estimates an increase of as much as 100 percent in the number of acres burned by wildfires annually by 2050, putting residents and firefighting employees at greater risk, further impacting the agency’s budget and resources, and reducing its capacity to provide other critical services.  Fire suppression funding has already grown from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent of the U.S. Forest Service's budget.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services considers climate change to be one of the top public health challenges of our time.  It will increase the risk from diseases and conditions such as heart and lung ailments, allergies and asthma, and alter the transmission of food and waterborne diseases.  Its greatest impact will be on people whose health status is already at risk and who have the fewest resources to address or adapt to climate change risks.  Hazards linked to climate change also include more severe climate-related extreme weather events potentially disrupting continuity of care and access to essential health and human services.
  • The Postal Service is concerned that increased flooding, rising sea levels, more intense weather events, and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns could disrupt its ability to provide mail service and increase costs for maintaining infrastructure.  These issues could jeopardize delivery to Postal Service customers and the safety of the nearly 500,000 USPS employees who deliver mail and perform other critical tasks.
  • NASA found that 66 percent of its assets are within 16 feet of mean sea level and located along America’s coasts, and that the United States’ access to space is currently being threatened by beach erosion that will accelerate with sea level rise and increased storm intensity. Additionally, electrical black-outs and brown-outs associated with heat waves threaten energy utilities that power NASA facilities that receive and process data from space.

The agency plans outline steps they will take to address these issues and incorporate climate change considerations into their decision-making. These include work by the Department of Commerce to stimulate new technologies and initiatives to build resilience in American communities; efforts by the General Services Administration to identify and address vulnerabilities in agencies’ data center, telecommunications equipment and services supply chains; an initiative by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to require higher flood elevation for HUD-funded hospitals, housing, and other vital community resources; and work by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release case studies from state and city health departments that have conducted climate vulnerability assessments.  Agencies are also working to factor resilience to the effects of climate change into grant-making and investment decisions and in the design and construction of new and existing agency facilities and infrastructure.

The current agency Climate Change Adaptation Plans build on the first set of plans, which was released in February, 2013, and respond to a November 2013 Executive Order on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change that established requirements for updating and reporting on progress on agency Adaptation plans.  To read the agency Climate Change Adaptation Plans, click here

Sustainability Plans

To do its part to help prevent the worst impacts of climate change, as the largest energy user in the Nation, the Federal Government must also lead by example to reduce its emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.  In 2010, the President set a goal for the Federal Government to reduce its direct emissions of greenhouse gases by 28 percent by 2020.  The Federal Government is on track to meet that goal, having already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent.  In their Fiscal Year 2015 Sustainability Plans, agencies outline the actions they will take to continue their progress. Examples include:

  • EPA will reduce heating and cooling loads at its labs and further save energy by converting from constant to variable air flow systems that respond to ventilation demand.
  • The General Services Administration will implement innovative energy conservation measures such as reducing nighttime base loads on buildings, including external lighting, and validating established building temperature settings.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation will issue sustainable design and construction specifications that require new buildings to exceed current standards by 30 percent where costs effective.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs will complete updates to utility data collection systems to provide estimates of building level greenhouse gas emissions and help facilities better understand emissions management.

The Sustainability Plans also outline how agencies are meeting additional water, energy and waste targets.  Overall, the Federal Government has already reduced its water use by 19 percent since 2007, ahead of schedule to meet a goal of 26 percent by 2020, and is now getting more than 9 percent of its energy from renewable sources – exceeding the goal of 7.5 percent and on track for a new goal set by the President last year of 20 percent renewable energy use by 2020. 

Agencies are required to update their Sustainability Plans annually under the President’s 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance.  To read the latest Sustainability Plans, click here.