United States (Federal)

US-8:Climate Leaders (ended in 2011)

Policy Description

Climate Leaders was an industry-government partnership that worked with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies.



Climate Leaders was an industry-government partnership that worked with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. The program was led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Participating companies committed to reduce their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA. Through program participation, companies created a credible record of their accomplishments and received EPA recognition as corporate environmental leaders.

In the Climate Leaders program, EPA offered the participants a variety of technical resources to help them set and achieve their goals and publicize their achievements. The program followed a similar approach as the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office’s  Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and EPA’s Energy Star for Industry, being voluntary target setting combined with government support and public recognition of targets achieved.

From 2002-2009 EPA allowed goals to be expressed as either absolute GHG emissions reductions or as decreases in GHG intensity. Starting in 2010 EPA required all new goals to be absolute goals.

In September 2010 EPA announced that the Climate Leaders program will phase down its services. It encouraged and assisted the transition of partners in the Climate Leader program into non-federal programs (i.e. programs at state level or local level). The Climate Leaders program officially ended in September 2011 (*1) [1].

Policy Information Expand this section for information on the key features of the policy, such as its date of introduction, categorization, main objective(s) and linkages with other policies.

Policy Categorisation

Policy Instrument Type: Administrative, Voluntary Agreement, Information & Outreach

Position in the Pyramid

About Us

Participation: Mandatory


Start Date: 2002

End Date: 2011

Policy Linkages

Supported By Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) Supporting Measure
Supported By Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS) Supporting Measure
Supported By Loan Guarantee Program Supporting Measure
Complements Save Energy Now LEADER (replaced by US-4b Better Buildings, Better Plants Program) Effort Defining

Agencies Responsible

Environmental Protection Agency

Primary Objective: GHG Emissions


Help companies develop comprehensive climate change strategies to reduce GHG emissions.

Target Group


Driver of energy consumption or emissions affected by policy: Carbon intensity or total emissions. From 2002-2000, the program allowed goals for both carbon intensity reductions and absolute GHG emission reductions. From 2010, only absolute GHG emission reductions were allowed. In addition, a carbon neutral goal was allowed, including purchase of green power, renewable energy certificates (RECs), and/or carbon offsets.

Implementation Information Expand this section for information on targets, monitoring, verification and enforcement regimes, and implementation requirements and tools.


All industry qualified. Partners included cement, forest products, pharmaceuticals, utilities, information technology, and retail. The number of participants increased from 11 in 2002 to around 280 in 2009 (*2). As of March 2010, 27 partner companies met their GHG reduction goal, 86 committed to a GHG reduction goal, and 83 more were developing their corporate-wide inventory in preparation of setting a GHG reduction goal. Combined, the Climate Leaders companies reduced greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 500 million metric tonnes of carbon equivalent (MMTCE) over the lifetime of the program [2]. Parties reported direct GHG emissions (6 major gases) from onsite fuel consumption and waste disposal, process-related emissions, and indirect emissions from electricity use.

Quantitative Target? yes

Target: Target set by participant in consultation with EPA. EPA has specified minimum requirements.

Time Period: Generally 4-6 yrs. Exact ranges specified by EPA. Large participants: 4-6 yrs; small participants 5% reduction in 5 yrs or less

Progress Monitored? yes

Verification Required? yes

Enforced? no

Requirements on the Target Group


Participants needed to follow a five-step program:
  • Step 1: Develop a corporate-wide GHG inventory. Using the Climate Leaders GHG Inventory Guidance participants have to develop an emission inventory for the six major GHGs. Free technical assistance is offered and cross-sector guidance is provided for calculating emissions. Partners also complete and maintain an Inventory Management Plan (IMP) that describes their process for completing a high-quality, corporate-wide inventory.
  • Step 2: Set a corporate-wide GHG emissions reduction goal. EPA evaluates each proposed GHG reduction goal using a sector-specific benchmark approach. Partners have flexibility in setting reduction goals and work individually with EPA to assess their unique emissions sources and reduction opportunities.
  • Step 3: Report inventory data annually and document progress toward emissions reduction goal. EPA specified Climate Leaders Reporting Requirements including Inventory Management Plan and review process.
  • Step 4: Achieve your long-term GHG reduction goal.
  • Step 5: Publicize achievements through Climate Leaders.

Support by Government


EPA provided free administrative and technical support, up to 60 hours for each partner. Support included:
  • Tools and guidance for developing and managing GHG inventories, including guidance on GHG accounting methods, and measuring, tracking, and reporting GHG emissions, inventory review to check quality of inventory.
  • Technical assistance to develop and document the Inventory Management Plan (IMP)
  • For Small Business and Low Emitters: Guide to Greenhouse Gas Management, including calculating a carbon footprint
  • Technical assistance webinars.
Once goals are achieved EPA offered various means of recognition. This includes EPA press releases, featured case studies online, national public service announcements in major national publications and announcement as Climate Leaders Partners meetings. Partners may also use the Climate Leaders program mark in their communications.

Implementation Toolbox


The Climate Leaders program was supported by an extensive implementation toolbox comprising various technical support, including:
  • Tools & guidance for GHG inventories,
  • Technical assistance to develop Inventory Management Plan (IMP),
  • Guide to GHG management, and
  • Webinars.
Some of these tools are still available through the EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership, published at http://www.epa.gov/climateleadership/

Complexity of Implementation


Program is relatively clear and straightforward but target setting and verification is complex. EPA takes responsibility to evaluate each goal using a performance benchmark methodology. EPA covers all costs of developing technical guidance, providing tools and verifying target setting.

Target Group

Industries needed to set up inventory, reduction program and monitoring/reporting system. Depending on type of activities this can be quite complicated. Technical support was provided by EPA, including guidance for emission calculations.

Impacts, Costs & Benefits Expand this section to find information on policy effectiveness and efficiency.

Impact Quantitative Estimate Qualitative Estimate
Estimated effect on energy consumption or emissions As of December 2009, EPA reported that the Climate Leaders companies combined were reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. [3] Not available.
Estimated costs/benefits for industry Not available Not available
Estimated cost for government Not available Not available
Other Benefits
General Benefits GHG reduction in industry.
Specific Benefits * Develop a credible GHG inventory, and Inventory Management Plan (IMP), and set an aggressive, corporate-wide long-term GHG reduction goal. * Better manage GHG emissions and associated risks. * Realize cost savings through energy efficiency. * Receive expert EPA technical assistance on inventories and reporting. * Participate in national public recognition campaigns. * Engage with other partner companies demonstrating climate leadership. * Access the latest GHG tools, technologies, and protocols. * Improve understanding of critical policy discussions. * Integrate climate change strategies with state, regional, and international GHG accounting schemes.

References & Footnotes


[1] US EPA (2011). Website Climate Leaders. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/climateleaders/index.html

[2] US EPA (2010). Effective Strategies for Climate Risk Mitigation. Presentation by Tom Kerr, EPA Office of Air & Radiation. Slides accessible from: www.cpuc.ca.gov/climatechange/P3EPA.ppt

[3] US EPA (2009). EPA Commends Corporate Leaders for Major Greenhouse Gas Reductions. Press release of December 2, 2009. Retrieved from http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/cbd57195d5693a40852576800069b0a0!OpenDocument


(*1) The EPA Climate Leaders program, logo, website and all other activities and affiliations officially ended on September 30, 2011.

(*2) In a press release of July 2009 EPA reports 284 Climate Leader Partners; but in a later press release of December 2009 it reports over 275 partners. At the start of the program in February 2002 a total of 11 partners had joined the program. These participants together represent more than eight percent of total annual U.S. GHG emissions. Program partners represent a broad range of industry sectors with a combined annual revenue equal to 12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Other Useful Resources