White House Reveals New Federal Climate Change Adaptation Plans

In advance of the upcoming UN Climate Summit, formally known as the 26th session of the Conference of Parties or COP26, President Joe Biden released the climate adaptation plans of how 23 federal agencies last week. When the summit starts in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31 Biden, along with Queen Elizabeth and Pope Francis, will be among 20,000 attendees representing almost every country in the world.

The purpose of the summit is for the largest polluting companies to showcase their plans to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Planning such an event during a global pandemic in which fewer than half of the world’s population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, makes it even harder. The inequities of vaccine availability at an international level will be on full display as some delegates struggle to meet the vaccination requirements. 

Biden’s administration first spent months reviewing the major climate threats of the country’s most high-profile public agencies and then directed agencies to craft specific plans to mitigate potential threats. Tulane University associate professor Jesse Keenan, a globally recognized thought leader on climate adaptation, told the New York Times that “nearly every service that the government provides will be impacted by climate change sooner or later.”

Among the common themes addressed by all agencies was the need to beef up construction standards to help new buildings become more resilient to future climate demands, reduce utilization of energy and water in buildings already in use, better protect staff against extreme heat, educate worker about climate science, develop supply chains that can better withstand disruption from storms or other weather-related disasters. Special emphasis is also being placed on how the various departments can mitigate the effects of climate change on minority and low income communities.

Before being released to the public last Thursday, the plans were reviewed by the National Climate Task Force and other government groups. During his term in office, President Donald Trump had played down the value of planning for climate change. The work had initially begun during the Obama years. 

“Agencies face a multitude of risks caused by climate change, including rising costs to maintain and repair damaged infrastructure from more frequent and extreme weather events, challenges to program effectiveness and readiness, and health and safety risks to federal employees who work outside,” the White House explained in a prepared statement. “By taking action now to better manage and mitigate climate risks, we will minimize disruptions to federal operations, assets and programs while creating safer working conditions for employees.”

President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda along with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal currently pending in the U.S. Senate will include “bold, historic, and transformational investments that will strengthen our nation’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events including upgrading power infrastructure, rebuilding America’s roads and bridges, and more.”

New climate resiliency plans have been introduced for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Treasury, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, among others.  All plans are available at www.sustainability.gov/adaptation.   

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