Addressing Climate Change
There is a preponderance of evidence that the global climate is changing due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These gases are a result of our everyday activities - the gasoline we burn in our cars, the coal that is burned for our electricity, even the farms that produce our food. Greenhouse gases persist in the atmosphere for decades, and their build up is directly related to rising global temperatures. Scientists around the globe are documenting the myriad ways in which this warming is manifesting itself in our natural systems. For example, glaciers are retreating on every continent, permafrost and sea ice are melting in the arctic, and droughts are becoming longer and more intense. Over time, the effects of climate change may have serious health, environmental, and economic consequences.
Addressing this global challenge will require decisive international action, and a collaborative effort involving cities, states, federal agencies, businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, and consumers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been addressing this issue for over a decade through a suite of partnership programs. More than 14,000 organizations nationwide have joined EPA to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through such things as energy efficiency, waste reduction strategies, and investments in clean energy. These organizations range from manufacturers and energy utilities, to municipalities and home builders. Their achievements have been noteworthy – through 2007, EPA’s partners have prevented 78 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to the emissions from 52 million vehicles. They have also enjoyed co-benefits, as well, such as lower operating costs and an improved corporate image. In 2007 alone, the net savings to consumers and businesses was $17 billion dollars.
You might be familiar with some of EPA’s most popular programs, such as ENERGY STAR® and the Green Power Partnership. But others are also effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and fluorinated gases, which are very potent greenhouse gases. These programs are all voluntary and participation is free.
Energy efficiency offers one of the lowest cost options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also saves money and grows the economy. Since it started in 1992, the ENERGY STAR® program has worked to develop cost-effective, energy-efficient technologies and practices in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been a partner with EPA in this effort since 1996. The number of products that are offered through ENERGY STAR® grows every year, providing Americans with a credible, objective way to improve energy efficiency in their homes and businesses. Through the program, more than 12,000 businesses and organizations across the country are working with ENERGY STAR® to develop energy-efficient products, practices, homes, and buildings, and provide services that lower energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These partners include:
Approximately 2,000 manufacturers that are meeting ENERGY STAR® label requirements with over 40,000 individual product models across more than 50 product categories.
More than 1,000 retail partners are selling ENERGY STAR® qualified products to their customers, and sharing educational information.
More than 5,000 builders are constructing new homes that qualify for the ENERGY STAR® label in every state and the District of Columbia.
About 3,000 private businesses and public sector organizations are investing in energy efficiency and reducing energy use in their buildings and facilities.
More than 40 states and 550 utilities are leveraging ENERGY STAR® to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings, industrial facilities, and homes.
Hundreds of energy service providers, energy raters, architects, building engineers, and financial lenders are making energy efficiency more widely available through ENERGY STAR® and providing additional value to their customers.
Green Power Partnership
Purchasing electricity generated from green power sources through EPA’s Green Power Partnership offers organizations an easy and attractive way to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, hedge against volatile energy prices, increase employee and stakeholder morale, and demonstrate environmental leadership. The program has commitments from a variety of partners who range in size from Fortune 500 corporations to neighborhood businesses, large public universities to small private colleges, local communities to city, state, and federal government agencies.
EPA launched the Climate Leaders Program in 2002 to assist companies across the country in developing comprehensive climate change strategies. Climate Leaders has achieved a number of significant milestones, and the number of Climate Leaders partners continues to grow. They represent a broad range of industry sectors, including cement, forest products, pharmaceuticals, utilities, information technology, and retail. Partners operate in all 50 states and provide nearly seven million jobs worldwide. When joining the Climate Leaders partnership, companies make a commitment to reduce their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA. EPA provides guidance and recognition to partner companies as they develop and work toward their emissions reduction goals. Using EPA’s wide range of tools, expertise, and resources, partners can make informed decisions about cost-effective strategies, investments, and projects in the areas of energy efficiency, clean energy, and non-carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions. EPA continuously tracks partner progress through a variety of means and ensures the credibility of reported data by performing detailed reviews and making site visits.
Combined Heat and Power Partnership
The CHP Partnership seeks to reduce the environmental impact of power generation by promoting the use of combined heat and power as an efficient, clean, and reliable approach to generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source. CHP projects are up to 25 percent more efficient than traditional separate heat and power generation. The partnership works closely with energy users, the CHP industry, state and local governments, and other stakeholders to support the development of new projects and promote benefits.
Natural Gas STAR
The Natural Gas STAR Program is a partnership between EPA and the U.S. natural gas industry. It was designed to promote the adoption of cost-effective technologies and practices that reduce methane emissions. Initiated in 1993, Natural Gas STAR partnered with companies from all sectors of the natural gas supply chain—production, processing, transmission, and distribution—to reduce gas losses, improve system efficiency, and ensure that more gas gets to market. The Program offers a range of tools and resources to help partners achieve results.
The WasteWise Program is in its 14th year of operation - continuing to foster partnerships with communities and businesses in an effort to reduce municipal waste. WasteWise has over 2,000 partners spanning 54 industry sectors, who have committed to reducing waste and increase recycling efforts. Its partners have experienced benefits such as operational efficiencies and reduced costs, while reducing their carbon footprints and conserving natural resources. This program provides support to partners through a helpline, and offers an-online tool to translate waste reduction efforts into tons of greenhouse gases reduced.
State and Local
EPA also collaborates with state and local governments to support them in their efforts to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other clean energy technologies. In this role, EPA provides technical assistance, helps to measure and evaluate the benefits of their initiatives, and fosters peer exchange opportunities for officials to share information on best practices and innovative policies. Many of the partnership programs mentioned above provide the tools and resources needed to achieve their goals.
A common feature of all these programs is the recognition EPA gives to its partners for their achievements. They may share their success stories on EPA’s websites, post membership plaques in their facilities, and receive awards for their outstanding efforts. Recognition plays a large part in influencing cultural change, and making “green” practices a foundation for corporations and government agencies across the country.
EPA will continue to address climate change through its partnership programs. They are a cost-effective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and there is still untapped potential for these programs to capture and deliver win-win opportunities.
Laura Farris is the Climate Change Coordinator for EPA’s regional office in Denver, CO. For more information, visit the EPA Region 8 website at www.epa.gov/region8/.