Biden prepares federal agencies for climate risks

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The Biden administration aims to build the federal government’s climate resilience by preparing agencies for the risks of global warming.

The White House today released the climate action plans of more than 20 agencies. The plans lay out the steps of what each agency will do to keep its operations operational and protect its facilities and staff from the dangers of climate change.

The plans follow an executive order signed by President Biden shortly after taking office, calling on the United States to fight climate change at home and abroad.

Under those plans, the agencies will use their contracting power to strengthen the supply chain and invest in communities swamped by pollution as part of the administration’s Justice40 initiative. In addition, the White House noted in a fact sheet that the infrastructure bill and reconciliation spending program would strengthen the country’s resilience against extreme weather events, including helping to rebuild the power grid as well as roads and bridges.

“The impacts of climate change are affecting people in all parts of the country, threatening lives and livelihoods and damaging infrastructure, ecosystems and social systems in communities across the country,” the administrator said. the EPA, Michael Regan, in his agency’s climate action plan.

As part of the plan, the EPA will update its financial assistance programs to push for “climate resilient” spending across the country as well as advance environmental justice with agency partners in state, local and tribal governments. Additionally, climate adaptation planning will be integrated into all EPA programs and regulations.

The EPA plan also warns of the dangers of climate change, including how higher temperatures will lead to more wildfires and worsen air quality. Sea level rise and more frequent droughts will also degrade water quality. This increases the risks for everyone, including the EPA workforce.

“Poor air quality, fires, floods, hurricanes, and other extreme events present risks to EPA employees and contractors engaged in field work, such as the sampling, remediation and inspections,” the plan says.

The Home Office’s climate action plan emphasizes the transition to renewable energy generation on public lands, as well as environmental justice and green jobs.

The agency, which oversees more than 450 million acres of land, is committed to engaging a range of stakeholders – including tribal nations, local governments, fishers and outdoor enthusiasts – as it is moving from oil and gas to solar, wind and other technologies.

“As conventional energy will continue to play a major role in America for years to come, the expansion of renewable energy opportunities will need to be carefully evaluated to minimize impacts on the communities the development proposes to support,” indicates the map.

The proposal also focuses on increasing the ranks of “conservation and resilience workers”, via the Civil Climate Corps project.

“The Department stands ready to support efforts to create well-paying jobs, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and address pressing climate challenges. The Department will work to ensure that climate workers receive education and training. climate training tailored to their professions,” the plan reads.

But despite its popularity on Capitol Hill, funding for the program — modeled after the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps — remains in limbo as lawmakers debate the size of the reconciliation bill (Daily O&MOctober 6).

“As the climate crisis disproportionately affects underserved communities, the Interior will center environmental justice, build resilient communities, and invest in a clean energy future that can create millions of well-paying union jobs, while protecting people. communities, natural and cultural resources that Americans rely on,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement accompanying the report.

The Department of Energy is taking action to address climate change, including advancing climate technology research programs at its national laboratories, in line with its climate resilience plan.

The DOE will also require its contractors to consider climate change resilience and reduced carbon emissions. The ministry’s acquisition office will develop contractual language for these measures by March next year.

“Adaptation to climate change is a critical part of a comprehensive response to climate change and the DOE will develop – through this plan – approaches that ensure its mission, programs, policies and operations remain effective for the people. under current and future climate conditions,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a policy statement accompanying the plan.

Defense, Treasure and more

The Department of Health and Human Services’ climate action plan focuses on five key areas. These include expanding existing public health research related to climate change, improving HHS’s response to the climate crisis, and developing climate-resilient grant policies at HHS.

The agency also plans to assess its vulnerability to five climate-related hazards: heat, extreme weather, wildfires, drought and floods. To mitigate the risks, the ministry will take measures such as updating heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to combat the heat and smoke from wildfires, and consider integrating cleaning water in properties prone to drought.

Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote in a policy statement accompanying the plan that the agency “will help lead the nation’s efforts to fight the climate crisis by example” by reducing its carbon emissions and ensuring that purchases and grants will go to climate-resilient services.

“In addition, HHS will ensure that our own management and staff are familiar with the health implications of climate change and that the Department is prepared to maintain operations in the face of extreme weather events and other related threats. to climate change,” he wrote.

The Department of Defense will incorporate “climate intelligence” into its decision-making, helping military planners understand climate risks to its facilities, according to its plan.

The Treasury Department said in its climate action plan that it was working on contingency plans to support “critical supply chains” to ensure the materials needed to produce currency and coins don’t run out.

In its climate action plan, the Department for Transport said it would tackle climate change by accelerating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector and making infrastructure more resilient to climate change. climate. Transportation is the largest contributor to heat trapping emissions in the United States.

“The climate crisis is here today, threatening the lives and livelihoods of Americans, our homes and businesses, and even the way we travel and operate our federal agencies,” Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. . “The good news is we know what to do about it, and America is fully capable of rising to the occasion.”

The DOT has placed particular emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable communities, prioritizing communities of color, communities with limited English proficiency, and low-income areas, as well as people with disabilities, who experience often bear the brunt of environmental degradation and pollution.

The agency also said it would rely on the best available science when considering adaptation and resilience strategies while working to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems – for example, by conserving areas wetlands in coastal areas that act as a buffer, minimizing the impacts of storm surges.

The DOT said that to achieve these goals, it will engage both locally and globally, involving multiple sectors, groups and individuals in its decision-making process, as well as other nations and multilateral organizations.

The Department of Agriculture, in its action plan, said it would build the “climate literacy” of its workforce through training, including seminars and possibly a new task force run by the USDA Climate Hubs program.

The USDA has nearly 100,000 employees at more than 4,500 locations in the United States and other countries, and integrating climate preparedness into the department’s work will require a more informed workforce, according to The report.

“To prepare the current and future USDA workforce for the impacts of climate change, USDA will expand educational opportunities focused on how climate change affects the Department’s mission and its work. Basic education and training must be accessible to personnel at all levels in all locations,” the report states.

The USDA said it will also integrate climate preparedness into its facilities and vehicle fleet, including energy efficiency in buildings and the gradual replacement of fossil fuel-powered vehicles with a mix of electric and electric models. based on biofuels.

And the agency said it would seek more comprehensive data on climate trends and boost research on climate impacts and adaptation in food production.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a message accompanying the plan: “By taking these steps to prepare America’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners, resource managers and communities for the effects of climate change, we will ensure that our agriculture and forestry sectors continue to provide healthy food and fiber for America and the world, and that we preserve our soil, air and water for generations to come.”

Journalists Marc Heller, Arianna Skibell, Ariel Wittenberg and Jennifer Yachnin contributed.

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