U.S government pledges to cut emissions with video conferencing

The U.S government has pledged to make huge changes to the working practises and procedures of federal agencies in an effort to cut down on carbon emissions, with ambitious plans to make greater use of video conferencing to cut down on travel.

The Federal Times reports that the federal government has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources – e.g. employee travel, waste disposal – by at least 13% by 2020. Working from the 2008 baseline of 16.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, this would see the government reduce its carbon footprint by 2.19 million metric tons.

This target is in addition to a pledge made in January to cut emissions directly resulting from federal agency operations of purchases such as energy use by 28% by 2020.

In draft guidance released by the administration, White House federal environmental executive Michelle Moore said that employee travel was the largest indirect contributor to the government’s carbon footprint.

To cut down on these the government has proposed a massive expansion of the use of video conferencing services in the workplace. Federal employees would be encouraged to work from home, using collaboration software to work on documents whilst conducting routine meetings via video conference.

Two agencies have already announced that they will be focusing their efforts on cutting travel for employees, the Agriculture Department – where nearly 90% of indirect emissions stem from travel and commuting – and the Labour Department. The former has said it will curb the practise of flying regional managers to Washington, with its chief of environmental management Jeff Goodman stating that “we think we can be a little more aggressive on the business side of it with video conferencing, virtual meetings.”

“There are a lot of different ways agencies are going to be able to meet their goals,” said Michelle Moore. “It’s really about what agencies can do to support the employees in this effort.”