Obama Solar Panels
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order Thursday requiring the federal government to slash its greenhouse gas emissions. In this 2012 file photo, the president delivers remarks at the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada. Reuters

President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Thursday requiring the federal government to slash its greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate its use of renewable energy sources, the White House told reporters. The mandate marks Obama’s latest effort to confront the challenge of climate change during his final two years in office.

Obama's order will direct the government to curb its emissions by 40 percent over the next decade, compared with 2008 levels, the Associated Press reported. The White House said the move could save U.S. taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided electricity costs. About 30 percent of the government's energy consumption must come from renewable supplies such as solar and wind power.

While federal buildings and vehicles account for a relatively small slice of total U.S. emissions, the initiative is designed in part to pressure major companies to follow the president’s lead. After signing the order, Obama will meet with federal suppliers -- including General Electric Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Honeywell International Inc. -- to discuss their voluntary corporate emissions targets, the White House said. Obama will also visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s headquarters and tour the building’s rooftop solar panels.

The emissions effort comes on the day Obama is meeting with Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. The leaders are expected to discuss American and British efforts toward holding back, eliminating and reversing climate change, among other topics.

Obama has made reducing emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change a top priority of his second term -- despite opposition from congressional Republicans. In his first administration, efforts to push a cap-and-trade bill and national clean energy standard through Congress resoundingly failed. So Obama has shifted to using his expansive presidential authority to make progress on climate policy.

Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed regulations requiring states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The proposal aims to achieve as much as a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels in heat-trapping gases by 2030. In January, the Obama administration unveiled a plan to cut emissions of methane -- a dangerous greenhouse gas -- from U.S. oil and gas operations. The White House says it aims to cut emissions to 45 percent below 2012 levels within 10 years -- the first target of its kind in the nation.

The steps are part of Obama’s broad strategy to push leaders in other countries to adopt aggressive climate policies. The U.S. and nearly 200 countries this year are developing individual strategies for reducing their respective emissions. The plans will help to shape a global emissions treaty that leaders could sign at a United Nations climate conference in Paris this December.