Resilience Roadmap: New Report from the White House Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience regarding Federal “Resilience Opportunities”

October 31, 2016

On October 31, 2016, the U.S. Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience released a report titled “Opportunities to Enhance the Nation’s Resilience to Climate Change,” which outlines opportunities for federal agencies to guide resilience action by supporting science and research on climate change impacts, ensuring federal operations and facilities are resilient to climate change, protecting critical infrastructure and other public goods, and facilitating community-based resilience efforts.

The opportunities in the report are built on top of several core principles: 1) climate resilience should aims to fair and equitable, incorporating community engagement and investing in communities that are often overlooked; 2) all levels of government, academic institutions, companies, and non-profits must collaborate and coordinate through partnerships and shared knowledge; 3) climate resilience should be incorporated into everyday decisionmaking; and 4) climate resilience should factor into financial decisions and investments.

The 17 opportunities for further federal action identified in the report are organized into the following three themes:

Advancing and applying science-based information, technology, and tools to address climate risk:

  • Improve awareness and dissemination of climate information, including the sea level rise estimates for the entire U.S. coastline that are being developed for the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
  • Enhance usability of climate tools for decision making by working with states, local governments, tribes, and territories to improve demographic, land use, and climate data and ensure that new information can be integrated with existing tools and resources.
  • Facilitate co-production of knowledge and tools by supporting people who effectively interpret and translate scientific information and the needs of decisionmakers to ensure climate resources are usable.
  • Improve understanding of the economics of climate change by working with the private sector, trade associations, think tanks, academia, and all levels of government to better understand the true costs and benefits of climate resilience investments.
  • Evaluate progress and performance of resilience investments through data, metrics and tools. These might take a form similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool that allows water utilities to better understand the costs and benefits of risk reduction strategies. The report also discusses the possibility of strengthening climate-risk disclosure requirements to better evaluate financial risks to companies.
  • Support cross-sector collaboration to advance research and development, building on existing research and development support for water sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives.

Integrating climate resilience into federal agency missions, operations, and culture:

  • Strengthen resilience coordination across federal agencies to ensure that best practices are shared across agencies and efforts are not duplicative.
  • Strengthen federal workforce capacity through leadership direction and training, building off of existing climate-related training programs, such as the one the EPA has used to train over 6000 employees.
  • Expand incentives and requirements to increase the resilience of infrastructure and buildings by enhancing the resilience of federal assets and incentivizing state and local governments to implement best practices.
  • Address national security risks from climate change, drawing on an existing working group that brings together climate scientists with intelligence and national security experts to better understand the national security implications of climate change.
  • Conserve, restore, and manage ecosystems to enhance resilience through expanded research on the costs and benefits of ecosystems that can be integrated into community planning and resource management.
  • Apply climate-resilient approaches to international development by screening projects for climate-related risks.

Supporting community efforts to enhance climate resilience:

  • Build capacity, meaningfully engage communities, and invest in local leaders by expanding current efforts to fund community engagement processes and fostering relationships with trusted local leaders and community advocates.
  • Strengthen place-based approaches to climate resilience through regional coordination that aims to connect communities, support peer-to-peer learning, and identify opportunities to align or bundle similar projects.
  • Integrate resilience into health and social-service delivery in an effort to limit disruptions to medical care, behavioral health services, child care, elder care and other basic support services during extreme weather events.
  • Improve navigability of Federal resources by streamlining training and technical assistance resources, coordinating funding criteria, enhancing partnerships with communities, and better training federal regional and field staff.
  • Encourage comprehensive preparedness before disasters strike through investments in hazard mitigation and disaster resilience.

The report also outlines the action the Obama Administration has already taken to enhance climate resiliency, beginning in 2009 with Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance—setting sustainability goals for federal agencies, up through a September 2016 Memorandum titled Climate Change and National Security –directing federal policies and plans around national security to consider climate change-related impacts.  

This report was also released alongside a tool developed by the Office of Science & Technology called “Resilience Dialogues.” This tool enables community leaders, scientists, resilience practitioners and other subject-matter experts to consult with one another to solve climate challenges.