Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction

As outlined in Executive Order (EO) 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to minimize the contributions to the greenhouse effect which contributes to global warming and subsequent adverse environmental and human health. GHG reduction is managed by the following:

  • Using the Federal Emergency Management Program (FEMP) GHG emission report to identify and target high emission categories and implement specific actions to address high emission areas identified.
  • Identifying and supporting management practices or training programs that encourage employee engagement in addressing GHG reduction.
  • Determining unsuccessful programs or measures to be discontinued to better allocate NIH resources.
  • Establishing percentage reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and evaluating performance to determine whether current NIH GHG targets should be revised to a more aggressive or ambitious target.
  • Identifying additional sources of data or analyses with the potential to support GHG reduction goals.
  • Reducing employee business ground and air travel.
  • Developing and deploying employee commuter emissions reduction plans.
  • Developing and utilizing employee commuting surveys to identify opportunities and strategies for reducing commuter emissions.
  • Increasing and tracking the number of employees eligible for telework and/or the total number of days teleworked.
  • Developing and implementing programs to support alternative/zero emissions commuting methods and infrastructure.
  • Establishing policies and programs to facilitate workplace charging for employee electric vehicles.
  • Including requirements for building lessor disclosure of carbon emission or energy consumption data and report GHG emissions for leases over 10,000 rentable feet.

To demonstrate progress in GHG emission reductions and overall sustainability, NIH publishes an annual Sustainability Implementation Plan (SIP) and reports progress to the federal agency, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS adheres to the requirements in Section 14 of EO 13693 and publishes an annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to demonstrate overall agency progress.

What is GHG?

GHG is a collective term referring to several airborne chemicals in the earth’s atmosphere that prevent heat from escaping into space.  The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation has caused the atmospheric concentration of GHG to increase significantly.  As this occurs, the global average temperature increases, triggering related climate changes and impacts on human and environmental health. The resultant phenomenon, known as the Greenhouse Effect, is shown below.

Greenhouse Effect Process

    Sources of Federal GHG Emissions and Reduction Requirements

    Common Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    The NIH mission and practice of public health aligns with climate change resilience strategies. For managing GHG emissions, NIH has assembled a comprehensive GHG inventory and quantified emissions associated with its activities, operations, services, and products. Three types of emissions, referred to as Scope 1, 2, and 3, are defined below.

    1.  Executive Order 13693 requires agencies to reduce Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 43% by FY 2025 as compared to the FY 2008 baseline.
      • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions generated by NIH facility processes. Some examples include boilers, chillers, generators, and other power plant operations.
      • Reductions in Scope 1 emissions include utility and equipment upgrades and maintenance improvements to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions.
    2. Scope 2 indirect emissions generated from consumption of purchased electricity.
      • For Scope 2 emissions, energy conservation projects at all NIH locations will help reduce the amount of electricity purchased.
    3. Executive Order 13693 also requires agencies to reduce Scope 3 GHG emissions by 25.4% by FY 2025 as compared to FY 2008 baseline.
      • Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions generated from sources such as employee business travel and employee commuting. NIH has designed and implemented a Commuter and Parking Information System for the Bethesda campus and Montgomery County leased facilities in conjunction with the Transhare or Parking Permit renewal system. Data from this program will be used to understand employee commuting choices, as well as designing incentives to lessen GHG emissions.

    GHG at NIH

    The NIH mission and practice of public health aligns with climate change resilience strategies. For managing GHG emissions, NIH has assembled a comprehensive GHG inventory and quantified Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions associated with its activities, operations, services, and products.

    Any gas that absorbs and emits infrared radiation in the wavelength range emitted by earth is considered a GHG. Water vapor is the most abundant GHG in the earth’s atmosphere. Regulated GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases [e.g. hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)]. Some of these regulated GHGs are emitted from facility and laboratory sources in day-to-day operations at NIH, as shown below.

    GHG molecule

    NIH Facility Source

    NIH Laboratory Source

    Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

    Combustion of fuel oil, natural gas, propane, and waste to produce heat and electricity

    Dry Ice for shipping precious specimens and CO2 for incubators

    Methane (CH4)

    Transport of fuel oil and natural gas

    NIH livestock

    Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

    Combustion of fuel oil, natural gas, propane, and waste to produce heat and electricity

    Tracer gas and inhalation anesthetic in medical, dental, and veterinary procedures

    Fluorinated Gases

    NIH Specific Sources of Fluorinated Gas Emissions

     

    Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

    HFC-134a fugitive emissions from chiller operation

    Inhalation anesthetics (sevoflurane and isoflurane) and HFC-134a is used as a carrier as in Ethylene Oxide Sterilants

    Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6)

    Dielectric used in the transmission of electricity

    Tracer gas in fume hoods, microbubbles as contrast agent in ultrasound equipment, treatment of retinal detachment by reinopexy.


    According to global EPA data the primary global greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 76-80% carbon dioxide, 10-16% methane, 5-7% nitrous oxide, and 2-3% fluorinated gases. Fluorinated gases are emitted in smaller quantities, however, they have a high global warming potential.

    Ozone as a greenhouse gas in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and filter of harmful sunlight wavelengths in the upper atmosphere (stratosphere):

    Bad ozone or Tropospheric ozone (O3): Ozone in the lower atmosphere (or tropospheric ozone) is an atmospheric pollutant, however, ozone (O3) is not emitted directly by car engines or by industrial operations, but formed by the reaction of sunlight on air containing hydrocarbons (particulate matter) and nitrogen oxides that react to form ozone directly at the source of the pollution or many kilometers down wind. Tropospheric ozone acts as a greenhouse gas, absorbing some of the infrared energy emitted by the earth. The CAA regulates ozone formation in the troposphere by establishing ozone season reductions in particulate matter and gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides that facilitate the formation of ozone in the troposphere.

    Good ozone or Stratospheric ozone (O3): Ozone in the upper atmospheric ozone layer (or stratosphere) filters out harmful sunlight wavelengths. In recent decades, the amount of ozone in the stratosphere has been declining, mostly because of emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and similar chlorinated and brominated organic molecules, which have increased the concentration of ozone-depleting catalysts above the natural background. The CAA not only regulates the GHGs contributing to the depletion of the protective ozone layer (e.g. fluorinated gases such as CFCs, HFCs, and SF4) but has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) which vary across the nation pending on geographic location. Some areas of the nation have stricter air quality standards than others especially areas that are located in established hazardous air pollutant (HAP) zones.

    NIH Progress in Reducing Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions

    For Scopes 1 & 2 and Scope 3 Emissions

    Measured in metric tons of CO2 emitted

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    For more information, please refer to the Sustainability Goal PoC List

    Click here to view the 2016 NIH Sustainability Implementation Plan

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