Joe Biden Signs Executive Order to Make Federal Government Carbon-Neutral By 2050

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that will make the federal government carbon-neutral by 2050, with other benchmarks set along the way.

Overall, the plan aims for a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by changing the source of electricity for government buildings and updating the fleet of US government vehicles to electric cars and trucks by 2035.

All government buildings are supposed to use 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity like wind and solar by 2030 and be entirely carbon-free by 2045, and federal contracts purchasing goods and services are to be carbon-free by 2050.

"As the single largest land owner, energy consumer and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyze private-sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings and other operations to be clean and sustainable," the order said.

The White House said the order will utilize the nation's 300,000 government buildings, 600,000 cars and trucks, and the country's yearly purchasing of about $650 billion in goods and services to reduce emissions.

The administration also said the order will "lead by example" that can be followed by the private sector hoping to profit by helping the government meet those targets, and for American businesses to take their own steps to reduce pollution.

The order was seen as an overall positive step, but some environmental groups said the end goal of 30 years wasn't sufficient and could be the government publicly stating a goal to relieve some of the pressure from activists to move toward renewable energy sooner.

Joe Biden, Climate Change, Carbon Neutral
President Joe Biden talks with reporters at the White House in Washington Wednesday during snow flurries, as heads to Missouri to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law. Biden also signed an executive order Wednesday designed to make the federal government's buildings, fleet of cars and trucks, and federal contracts for goods and services carbon neutral by 2050. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The White House said the order shows how the government will "leverage its scale and procurement power to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis." The order will reduce emissions across federal operations, as part of a government-wide effort to confront climate change.

The executive action is a part of Biden's commitment to support the growth of clean energy and clean technology industries while accelerating U.S. progress toward achieving a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035, the White House said in a statement.

The order sets "a bold benchmark for electricity procurement" and puts the government's "immense buying power to work advancing critical carbon-free technologies," said Lindsey Baxter Griffith, federal policy director of the Clean Air Task Force, an advocacy group.

"We're pleased to see the U.S. federal government, which is the largest electricity purchaser in the nation, focus on fully decarbonizing electricity (and) investing in solutions that will work across our grid every hour of every day," Griffith said.

But to Bill Snape, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity, another environmental group, "2050 is an extremely weak goal for the federal government to free itself from climate-heating pollution."

The order "ignores existing technology" and adds decades to a commitment by the General Services Administration, which oversees government purchasing and real estate, to move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, Snape said.

"This is like a teenager promising to clean their room in 30 years. We need action now," he said.

The White House said the order should make federal agencies more resilient to the effects of climate change and increase the sustainability of supply chains, lessening future disruptions of and damage to federal operations, assets and programs.

On electricity, the White House said the government will work with utilities, developers, technology companies, financiers and others to purchase electricity produced from sources that generate no carbon emissions, including solar and wind, for all its operations by 2030.

The move to zero-emission vehicles "will accelerate the advancement of America's industrial capacity to supply zero-emission vehicles and electric vehicle batteries and create and sustain good union jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades,'' the White House said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Joe Biden, Carbon Neutral, Electric Vehicles
Joe Biden signed an executive order to make the federal government carbon neutral by 2050, including changing the 600,000 cars and trucks in the federal fleet to electric vehicles. Above, electric vehicles are displayed before a news conference with White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg about the American Jobs Plan and to highlight electric vehicles at Union Station near Capitol Hill on April 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images