At the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow earlier this week, President Biden called on leaders from more than 100 countries to tackle the climate crisis and detailed the steps his administration is taking as part of a whole-of-government approach to confronting this existential threat.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is leading by example on the President’s call to action and helping to facilitate an all-of-government approach to address climate change in federal government operations. The climate crisis is already having a devastating impact on communities across the U.S. and the world, and as the agency responsible for managing a real estate portfolio of more than 370 million rentable square feet and overseeing approximately $75 billion in annual contracts, GSA is uniquely positioned to be a part of the solution.
The mission of GSA is to provide excellence in the business of government and deliver effective and efficient government services for the U.S. taxpayer. We can fulfill our mission while leading by example and prioritizing decarbonization, climate resilience, and environmental justice in how we operate and manage the federal footprint.
GSA is working across the agency to find ways to leverage the power of procurement and the breadth of the federal real estate footprint to catalyze American innovation, create good-paying clean technology jobs, and make a lasting impact for generations to come. We can help to promote the evolution of the electric power industry to clean energy by making our buildings more efficient, flexible and interactive with the energy grid, greening our federal fleet, and working toward powering our operations with 24/7 carbon-pollution free electricity. We are also taking actionable steps to adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise and increasing extreme weather events, by ensuring climate risk management and oversight is a part of the agency’s established processes.
Right now, President Biden’s budget request and the bills for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act provide an opportunity to build on this momentum. Those funds will allow us to upgrade public assets, providing a historic opportunity to make our buildings safe, sustainable and resilient to future emergencies.
With this funding, we can also do our part to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in federal facilities by 95 percent, putting more than 150,000 zero emission vehicles (ZEV) onto the roads - along with charging infrastructure at our public buildings - and helping the government lead by example by dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.
We recognize the need to partner as we design a coordinated pathway to a low-carbon economy that is efficient, effective, inclusive, and integrated. For example, the transition to a ZEV fleet will present both challenges and opportunities to the electrical grid as well as facility and fleet managers. Advances in batteries and technology come with the opportunity to rethink energy storage in ZEVs and the possibility of offering stability to both the grid and buildings, especially when combined with distributed generation. We know that translating these climate targets into action will require collaboration and partnerships between government and industry. GSA will continue our conversations with utilities, technology companies and other innovators to help create best practices around emerging grid integration challenges to support a resilient, effective, and equitable energy transition.
The good news is that partnering is a long-standing best practice for GSA. We want to work alongside mayors, county executives, governors, tribal leaders, and businesses across America to help build a clean economy. GSA is also excited to contribute to the Greening Government Initiative (GGI), announced at President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate. GGI is a first-of-its-kind initiative that enables countries to exchange information, promote innovation, and share best practices to green government operations and meet Paris Agreement climate commitments.
As President Biden said in his address at COP26, “this is the challenge of our collective lifetimes” and now is the time to answer history’s call. GSA is ready to help the country and the world meet this pivotal moment and build a healthier, more sustainable and prosperous future for all.