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Executive Order Focuses on Resiliency

Dried riverbed from California drought
In an effort to prepare for the effects of climate change—including severe droughts, excessively high temperatures, increases in wildfires, and other conditions— President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing a variety of agencies and departments within the federal government to create specific plans aimed at climate-change preparedness and resiliency. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

President Obama establishes a new council and task force to increase infrastructure resiliency and preparedness for the impacts of climate change.

November 12, 2013—On November 1, President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing the federal government to take a variety of actions and “pursue new strategies” to increase resiliency and improve preparedness for the impacts of climate change across a broad spectrum of federal departments and agencies.

“The impacts of climate change—including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise—are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation,” the executive order states.

“Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the federal government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate federal, state, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience...,” the executive order states.

The order directs federal agencies to move forward with the development and implementation of comprehensive plans that factor the potential effects of climate change into operations and mission objectives. These plans, which are to be submitted to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget, include five elements.

The plans must include an assessment of climate change impacts on the ability of an agency to fulfill its mission, as well as singling out for special attention any significant risks and specifically how they will be addressed. The plans must also identify efforts the agency has in place and additional actions planned to increase resilience and mitigate climate risks, as well as a description of how an agency will incorporate resilience and adaptation into supply chains, property investments, and capital equipment purchases. The agencies are also expected to report how they will collaborate in interagency efforts.

The order establishes a new interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience composed of senior officials from 30 departments and agencies, including the U.S. departments of state, treasury, defense, justice, the interior, agriculture, commerce, labor, health and human services, housing and urban development, transportation, energy, education, veterans affairs, and homeland security, as well as the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the General Services Administration.

The order directs agencies to modernize their programs and policies to support climate resilient investments in coordination with the priorities identified by the new council. To this end, federal programs are directed to identify and address any barriers to climate resilience and to reform policies and programs that could be seen as increasing climate change vulnerability. The order also directs agencies to encourage smart investments in infrastructure resiliency via guidance, grants, performance measures, and technical assistance.

By August 2014 departments on the front lines of land use and water resources projects and policies—the departments of defense, the interior, and agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers—are required to have completed a comprehensive assessment of policy and program changes required to bolster resilience in their crucial areas of expertise.

“Further, recognizing the many benefits the nation’s natural infrastructure provides, agencies shall, where possible, focus on program and policy adjustments that promote the dual goals of greater climate resilience and carbon sequestration, or other reductions to the sources of climate change,” the order states. “The assessment shall include a timeline and plan for making changes to policies, programs, and regulations.”
Federal agencies are directed to develop new tools that present climate change preparedness information to state and local leaders in a manner that better informs and supports their efforts to bolster resiliency.

The order creates a State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to be cochaired by Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and David Agnew, the White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs and deputy assistant to the president.

This task force will develop a list of recommendations for ways the federal government can best aid state, local, and tribal leaders in implementing programs to improve resiliency and prepare for climate change effects. The task force will include the governors of Hawaii, California, Guam, Washington, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois, and Vermont. Sixteen local leaders are on the task force, including the mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sacramento, and Houston.



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