White House releases to-do list for federal workers to meet green government goals

The Biden administration is directing agencies on how to build the federal workforce to meet their green government goals.

The White House Environmental Quality Council released guidance this week directing agencies and the federal government as a whole to “develop new resources, training and systems to equip and inspire the federal workforce.”

“Agencies must develop, implement, support and encourage training, education and engagement activities that equip their employees with the necessary skills and tools …

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The Biden administration is directing agencies on how to build the federal workforce to meet their green government goals.

The White House Environmental Quality Council released guidance this week directing agencies and the federal government as a whole to “develop new resources, training and systems to equip and inspire the federal workforce.”

“Agencies must develop, implement, support and encourage training, education and engagement activities that equip their staff with the skills and tools needed to achieve EO’s sustainability goals,” CEQ wrote in its guidelines.

The guidance also outlines steps agencies must take to align with the administration’s ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions in all federal operations by 2050.

On the path to achieving this goal, the administration expects agencies to purchase 100% net zero-emission electricity annually by 2030, purchase only zero-emission vehicles by 2035, and achieve net-zero emissions in all federal buildings by 2045.

CEQ said the agency’s actions mandated in its guidance would lay the groundwork “for a decade of austerity action.” [greenhouse gas] Emissions from federal operations and drive greater sustainability across government.”

“To achieve these ambitious commitments, all authorities must act starting today,” CEQ wrote.

CEQ states that in partnership with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management, it will decide on metrics to track the development of a climate and sustainability-focused workforce by no later than fiscal 2023.

OPM, meanwhile, is working on a report analyzing the role of the federal workforce in climate adaptation and sustainability. Specifically, the forthcoming report will look at the state of government commitment, staff training and leadership skills needed to meet the green government’s goals.

The guidelines instruct all public authorities to develop human capital planning strategies to achieve the objectives of the implementing regulation and to provide metrics for achieving those objectives.

This includes incorporating sustainability and climate change targets into employee performance plans, as well as identifying the “staffing, training and related resources needed to implement and achieve the targets” of the executive order.

Sustainable construction goals of the federal government

The administration requires that all new major federal construction and building modernization projects planned in fiscal 2022 or later achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 “and where possible” to become net-zero water and waste buildings.

“The goal is to increase efficiency, optimize performance, reduce emissions, promote responsible use of materials and resources, ensure occupant health, reduce waste and increase government resilience and adaptation to climate risks increase,” says the guidelines.

This requirement applies to federal buildings and modernization projects that exceed 25,000 gross square feet. Agencies are expected to track progress towards this goal on an annual basis.

New federal buildings under construction must also meet or exceed the government’s principles for sustainable design and operations.

“Energy efficiency, electrification, onsite renewable energy, and onsite energy storage can support agencies’ efforts to meet both sustainable federal building requirements and net-zero emissions goals,” the guidance reads.

CEQ directs agencies to use sustainable building materials in the construction and upgrade of federal buildings and to include the necessary charging infrastructure to support an all-electric federal vehicle fleet.

The guide also outlines considerations agencies need to make when planning new facilities. This includes integrating the federal institutions into the existing local infrastructure and ensuring broad access to public transport.

“It is the federal government’s policy to promote sustainable locations for federal jobs and to enhance the vitality and quality of life of the communities in which they are located,” the guidelines state.

The administration is also directing agencies to optimize their leased properties and consolidate their office space where possible to “avoid unnecessary real estate spending and reduce emissions, energy and water use, and waste.”

Resources under the Anti-Inflation Act

The guidelines will also help kickstart agency spending under the recently passed anti-inflation law.

The $740 billion legislation calls for multi-year investments in hiring and training at multiple agencies, including the Department of the Interior and its National Parks Service, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and CEQ.

The legislation gives the Postal Service $3 billion to purchase electric vehicles and install charging infrastructure to support them at USPS-owned or leased facilities.

The General Services Administration will receive $975 million to support emerging sustainable technologies and an additional $250 million to transform federal facilities into “high performance green buildings.”

The GSA will also receive $2.15 billion for low-carbon materials in the construction and modernization of federal buildings, particularly those that the EPA says have “substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions” compared to industry-standard materials.

The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, which already serves as the coordinating body for projects under the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill, will receive $350 million to improve environmental assessment.

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