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EPA's Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions

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EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction program helps the Agency to reduce the impact of its day-to-day operations on global climate change.

What Are GHGs?

GHGs are gases in Earth’s atmosphere that prevent heat from escaping into space. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation have caused the concentrations of GHGs to increase significantly in the Earth’s atmosphere. As this occurs, the Earth's surface temperature is climbing above past levels. Scientists are certain that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere, and that increasing the concentration of GHGs will change the planet's climate. It is unclear, however, how much it will change, at what rate it will change, or what the exact effects will be. For more information on GHGs and climate change, see EPA’s Climate Change page.

On April 17, 2009, EPA's Administrator signed an Endangerment Finding, which found that the current and projected concentrations of the following six key GHGs in the atmosphere have an effect on the planet and threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations:

The GHG emissions generated directly and indirectly by an entity such as a federal agency can be classified into “scopes,” based on the source of the emissions:

Classification of GHG emission sources into scopes.

EPA’s GHG Emission Reduction Activities

In October 2009, Executive Order (EO) 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance," established the first comprehensive federal requirements for GHG emission inventories and reductions. Learn more about federal GHG emission reduction requirements.

EPA was well positioned to satisfy the baseline inventory requirements of EO 13514 because the Agency had already been working to quantify its annual GHG emissions and to develop a comprehensive strategy for reducing them. Learn more about EPA’s pre-EO 13514 inventory.

EO 13514 established fiscal year (FY) 2008 as the baseline year for federal agency GHG emission inventories. EPA's FY 2008 combined Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions were 140,809 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e).

EO 13514 also calls for federal agencies to set targets for GHG emission reductions. In December 2009, EPA established a goal of reducing its combined FY 2020 Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 25 percent and in June 2010 set a goal to reduce its FY 2020 Scope 3 GHG emissions by 8 percent, both compared to an FY 2008 baseline. Learn more about EPA’s GHG emission reduction goals and strategies. EPA is undertaking a variety of actions, including energy conservation projects, sustainable building initiatives, and renewable energy use, to achieve these GHG emission reduction results.

To learn more about GHG science, emission inventories, and accounting protocols, visit the More Information page.

1 Categorizing emissions associated with T&D losses from purchased heating and cooling as Scope 2 GHG emissions is consistent with federal GHG emissions accounting and reporting recommendations from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

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