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Expansive New Executive Order Calls for an ‘All of Government’ Approach to Climate

January 28, 2021

In a January 27 Executive Order, President Biden initiated steps to mobilize the entire federal government to address climate change from every sector of the economy – and to motivate states and other countries to do the same. The EO falls short of declaring a climate emergency; however, it tasks the federal agencies to make and act on recommendations related to climate policies, environmental justice, labor, national security, energy, and conservation. 

The EO recognizes the need for construction workers to build a new “clean energy economy.” It calls for broad adoption of resiliency to climate change and charges agencies to ensure that federal infrastructure investment reduces climate emissions. The EO reinstates the policy that federal permitting decisions must consider climate effects. It also seeks to accelerate clean energy projects. AGC foresees opportunities and challenges for the construction industry in these directives. We will remain focused on improving and streamlining the environmental approval and permitting processes for infrastructure projects. AGC will continue to advocate for sensible policies so that the process for improving climate resilience does not itself become unworkable.

The EO calls for the federal government to lead by example and factor climate into its processes: policy-making, budgeting, contracting, fleet management and federal procurement decisions, etc. It calls for increased resilience and energy and water efficiency across federal assets, “clean” vehicle procurement and maintenance, and using “the power of procurement” to drive innovation and guard against supply chain risks. It also calls for increased attention by federal contractors to climate matters, and for agencies to use the regulatory process to provide necessary motivation. AGC will track and respond to any regulatory changes the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council may propose.

Finally, the EO’s “all of government” approach to reduce emissions from every sector of the economy may bring attention to construction operations as it will with every other industry. The construction industry contributes approximately 1-2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions through its use of diesel (and gas) equipment and onsite power generation. These emissions come from millions of distinct pieces of equipment used by hundreds of thousands of construction firms. AGC will remained focused on engine emission standards or requirements that may impact existing equipment (e.g., use restrictions).

Please also read these AGC articles that provide additional information about the Executive Order:

For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at melinda.tomaino@agc.org.

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