November 1, 2013
President Obama signed an executive order today, directing federal agencies to modernize their programs to support climate-resilient investments, manage lands and waters for climate resilience, provide information, data, and tools to communities and businesses, and plan for climate change related risks.
In order to implement these actions, the President also created two bodies to coordinate federal efforts to prepare for climate impacts. A new Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience will advise the President, comprised of state, local, and tribal leaders from across the country (a full list of the members is below). The task force will be led by the Chair of the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The executive order also created an Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience directed to consider the recommendations developed by the Task Force. The council will include senior officials from more than 25 agencies and will be led by the chair of CEQ, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
The executive order calls for a wide ranging review of federal policies and programs. In particular, agencies may be directed to reform policies that encourage communities to rebuild to past standards after disasters rather than investing in improved resilience. Another specific step called for the in order is an assessment of federal agency programs and policies to identify reforms necessary to make watersheds and ecosystems more resilient to climate impacts while also sequestering carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
This announcement is particularly timely as we mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. One directive of the executive order is for federal agencies to think about how they leverage existing federal funding programs, such as disaster relief programs, to support state and local adaptation. For an example of how federal agencies could support adaptation while rebuilding after a natural disaster, see the Center’s analysis of the Sandy Supplemental appropriation (signed into law in January 2013).
The Georgetown Climate Center is a leading resource that seeks to help communities adapt to climate change. The Center hosts an online Adaptation Clearinghouse with more than 1,000 resources to assist policy makers in developing more resilient communities. In support of the directives in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and this executive order, the Center is convening a series of workshops bringing together federal, state, and local experts to discuss how federal agencies can support state and local adaptation through existing federal programs.