President Obama wants to prepare the country for the fallout of climate change, and he is calling on federal agencies to spearhead the efforts.
In a new executive order, Obama attempted to “enhance climate preparedness and resilience” by, in part, instructing agencies to develop plans to integrate consideration of climate change into their operations. These plans should spell out the risks climate change poses to agency missions and the specific actions agencies will take to mitigate those risks.
Agencies must consider resilience to climate change in choosing suppliers, making property investments and conducting building upgrades, Obama said. He encouraged “coordinated interagency efforts” to support climate preparedness at all levels of government.
Federal offices must create an “adaptation plan” within the next 120 days and continue to update their progress annually. Additionally, senior officials from all major executive branch agencies will form the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and work with both federal and state and local governments to assess climate change-related vulnerabilities. This council will replace a task force the Obama administration created in 2009.
While most specific projects to protect areas from the effects of climate change would require congressional appropriations, the new efforts enable federal agencies to lay out precise and detailed threats. They also place pressure on local governments to use federal grants to build infrastructure that both reduces non-renewable energy usage and prepares communities for the impacts of climate change -- such as droughts, wildfires and sea-level rise.
While this is not the first time Obama has asked the federal government to lead the country to a greener future, the new order marks a shift from prevention to preparedness; from avoidance to anticipation. In June, Obama directed agencies to consume 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the administration spent $4 billion to convert federal facilities into more environmentally-friendly buildings.
Now, however, climate change’s impact is “already affecting communities…across the nation,” Obama wrote. “Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the federal government.”