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EPA Begins Phase Out of Climate Leaders Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to shut down the voluntary Climate Leaders program, which has been helping organizations reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2002. The federal agency says it will phase down services it offers under its program over the next year and encourages participating companies to transition to state or non-governmental programs.

The announcement was made in a letter (PDF) to participating companies.

EPA says it considered many factors when making its decision, including the new developments in regulatory and voluntary programs that address GHG emissions, such as the first mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule that took effect on January 1, 2010. The agency also took into consideration the climate programs offered by several states and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which it says are robust enough to serve companies in the Climate Leaders program.

As EPA phases down services under the program – including technical assistance and setting greenhouse gas reduction goals – the agency will help participating companies transition to non-federal programs that “will allow them to go above and beyond mandatory reporting requirements to meet their goals.”

The agency says it will continue to stay involved in initiatives related to corporate greenhouse gas accounting and to support companies’ actions to reduce their GHG emissions through other EPA programs such as Energy Star and the Green Power Partnership. The agency will also look for new ways to promote, support and recognize climate leadership.

The transition will enable the agency to realign resources to better help companies learn from the emissions data collected under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, says the EPA. This data is expected to drive the exchange and application of best practices and technologies across a wide range of industries.

EPA’s other voluntary programs will remain in place and continue to work with partner organizations to reduce emissions and increase sustainability.

But some participants think EPA is making a mistake in shutting down the Climate Leaders program.

Bruce S. Klafter, Managing Director, EHS/ Head, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, at Applied Materials, said in an email: “My own opinion is EPA is making a mistake in closing down such an important and successful leadership program. With the demise of Performance Track, many of us in the sustainability community thought other voluntary programs might well be endangered and now the other shoe has indeed dropped. Climate Leaders has been a very valuable source of accounting expertise and the sharing of best practices has been similarly of value to my company.”

“While it is easy to argue that states and NGOs can offer the same sort of services, there is unique value in national level leadership initiatives. I did not find EPA’s logic in terminating Performance Track compelling and I am failing to see the logic with this action either. I anticipate that many Climate Leader Partners share my dismay at this turn of events and I hope we can engage EPA in a dialogue on the subject,” Klafter added.

As far as alternatives, Klafter expects the Registries will benefit, but will not be a perfect replacement.

The Climate Registry (The Registry), governed and supported by 41 U.S. states and DC, has stepped up to fill the gap left by EPA’s phase-out of its Climate Leaders program. The Registry says its voluntary GHG registry program is the only one in North America supported by state governments.

“The Climate Registered program is the perfect alternative for members of the Climate Leaders program,” said Doug Scott, Chairman of The Climate Registry and Commissioner of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “The program is unique in that it has the support of state governments. We are interested in pursuing a joint state/federal awards program and we look forward to discussions with EPA to create one.”

Last year, The Registry launched its leadership recognition program, Climate Registered, which awards Climate Registered Silver, Gold and Platinum status on organizations that achieve certain reduction goals.

The reduction program is currently in a 12-month pilot phase, with Charter Members pledging to achieve up to 30 percent in emission reductions by December 2010. The Registry also offers a Basic Membership option, which allows organizations to become familiar with GHG emissions measurement and management without having to third party verify or publicly report their emissions.

Former Climate Leaders members who are also Climate Registry members include Alcoa, Allergan, Eastman Kodak, Virgin America, Raytheon, Brown Forman and Johnson & Johnson.

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4 thoughts on “EPA Begins Phase Out of Climate Leaders Program

  1. As a Small Business partner in this program, Becker Underwood is greatly dissappointed to see that the EPA is phasing out the Climate Leaders program. It has been an extremely vaulable resource for our company in establishing our own accounting and reporting practices. The Small Business network was unique because it helped guide smaller organizations that may lack the reseources and funding to set up the proper accounting practices. We are disappointed to see this program go and the fact that partners did not have a voice in this decision. I hope that the EPA will reconsider this decision.

  2. I’m disappointed to hear this. We frequently recommend EPA’s Climate Leaders to our clients seeking LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) certification. In fact, this green building rating system references the program directly. I wonder exactly which other programs the EPA has decided are a fair substitute, and whether the US Green Building Council will fee the same when awarding credits to LEED-EB buildings?

  3. While an eventual phase-out of the Climate Leaders program makes sense, I’m very disappointed that it is happening sooner rather than later. This departure will leave a wide gap. While veterans at greenhouse gas management have benefitted from the program, Climate Leaders also provides a great service to companies, large and small, that are just beginning to consider greenhouse gases in their business strategies. I frequently recommend Climate Leaders to these newcomers as a way to get their programs off the ground. The staff have always been extremely helpful in providing guidance.

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