EPA's Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions
In This Section
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:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Methane (CH4)
- Nitrous oxide (N2O)
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
- Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
- Scope 1 emissions are direct GHG emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the entity. Scope 1 can include emissions from fossil fuels burned on site, emissions from entity-owned or entity-leased vehicles, and other direct sources.
- Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions resulting from the generation of electricity, heating and cooling, or steam generated off site but purchased by the entity, and the transmission and distribution (T&D) losses associated with some purchased utilities (e.g., chilled water, steam, and high temperature hot water).1
- Scope 3 emissions include indirect GHG emissions from sources not owned or directly controlled by the entity but related to the entity’s activities. Scope 3 GHG emission sources currently required for federal GHG reporting include T&D losses associated with purchased electricity, employee travel and commuting, contracted solid waste disposal, and contracted wastewater treatment. Additional sources that are currently optional under federal reporting requirements, but are significant, include GHG emissions from leased space, vendor supply chains, outsourced activities, and site remediation activities.
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.