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Feds go all-electric to meet Biden’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal

As climate action stalls in Congress, Biden takes a stab at a cleaner planet through executive order

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that would electrify the federal government’s fleet of vehicles, create clean infrastructure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet a carbon neutrality goal of 2050.

The order sets out a plan — coined The Federal Sustainability Plan — to transition federal vehicles and buildings to carbon pollution-free electricity; increase the sustainability of federal supply chains and make agencies more adaptive to the impacts of climate change; and mainstream sustainability within the federal workforce. According to the White House, this will be a whole-of-government approach and allow the federal government to lead by example in its effort to promote clean energy.

“The Federal Sustainability Plan will help our country meet the challenge of the climate crisis in a way that grows good jobs and industries, and makes us more economically competitive,” Biden said in a statement. “We will lead the world by example — transforming how we build, buy, and manage to help make our economy cleaner, more efficient, and more sustainable.”

Under Biden’s plan, by 2030 government buildings will use 100% carbon pollution-free electricity and should be carbon-free by 2045. The government’s cars and trucks would be all-electric by 2035 and any goods and services contracted by the government would need to be carbon-free by 2050.

“To accomplish our goals, we will transition our federal infrastructure to zero-emission vehicles and energy-efficient buildings, powered by carbon pollution-free electricity,” Biden said. “We will improve the federal government's preparedness and resilience to the effects of our changing climate. And we will do so in ways that promote economic and environmental equity for all Americans.”

By transitioning the federal government to clean energy, Biden hopes to boost those industries and accelerate their growth.

The White House cites specific actions for government agencies to meet these goals. The Department of the Interior began transitioning park police motorcycles to electric in Washington, New York and San Francisco in 2021. In 2022, the Department of Homeland Security will be field testing the electric Ford Mustang Mach-E for law enforcement use and the Department of Defense will conduct several projects to create a clean energy microgrid.

The agency highlights from the White House are only a small percentage of the effort and Biden underscored the challenge he has created to meet these new goals.

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“Extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, cost our nation $99 billion in economic damages last year — a record we are poised to break this year,” Biden said. “The time is now to take bold action to make our entire nation more resilient and sustainable. Some of this work will be difficult — but I know that, together, we will be up to the task.”

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Adam Schultz/White House

President Joe Biden, joined by Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, attends the Leaders Summit on Climate Thursday, April 22, 2021, in the East Room of the White House.