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July 17, 2014
McCarthy issues climate adaptation policy

In a policy statement, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the Agency will take seven actions to add momentum to the work of adapting Agency programs and policies to the threats of climate change.

Adaptation to climate change is a big theme with the federal government, which increasingly emphasizes that human activities are changing the climate now and that failure to adapt on many levels will put human health, the economy, and the environment in peril.  Agencies such as the EPA, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Agriculture have long considered adaptation in their statutory obligations and policies.

But President Obama has raised the profile of climate change throughout the government by issuing several Executive Orders directing all agencies to build and strengthen their capacity to adapt to a changing climate.  For example, federal agencies have been required to develop climate adaptation plans that describe actions agencies will incorporate into their programs and operations and protect taxpayer investments. The plans, which must be updated as needed, are also intended to serve as models local and state governments and the private sector can use in developing their own adaptation plans.

Climate roadmap

As the lead environmental agency, the EPA has a major role in showing how adaptation to climate change should be accomplishedIn 2013, the Agency issued two documents that describe how adaptation is occurring.

First, in February 2013, the EPA released its draft climate adaptation plan, which identifies 10 priority actions the Agency will take to integrate climate-adaptation planning into its programs, policies, rules, and operations.  Second, in November 2013, the EPA released for public comment the 17 draft implementation plans prepared by its national environmental program offices, national support offices, and all 10 regional offices.

Together, these documents comprise a roadmap the EPA intends to use to guide the implementation of its programs to serve “all communities that are facing climate-related challenges.”

Additional actions

Despite the existing roadmap, McCarthy says that more needs to be done to promote climate resilience and adaptation.  Accordingly, the statement instructs the EPA as follows:

  • Modernize EPA financial assistance programs to encourage climate-resilient investments.  Discretionary and nondiscretionary financial mechanisms (e.g., Agency grants, cooperative agreements, loans, technical assistance, and contracts) will support “smarter, more climate-resilient investments” by states, tribes, and local communities and ensure that climate change is included in areas such as clean air and safe drinking water. 
  • Provide information tools, training, and technical support for climate change preparedness and resilience.  The EPA will continue to support regions, states, tribes, local communities, and the private sector by producing and delivering the information, data, tools, training, and technical support they need to increase resilience and adapt to climate change.
  • Implement priority actions identified in EPA’s climate change adaptation plan and the implementation plans.  The EPA will carry out its 10 priority actions, and each Agency national program and regional office will act on its own implementation plan.
  • Focus on the most vulnerable people and places.  These include children, the elderly, the poor, tribes and indigenous communities, and small rural communities, all of which are the least prepared for, and the most vulnerable to, climate change impacts.
  • Measure and evaluate performance.  The Agency will evaluate its progress in implementing its adaptation plan and act on lessons learned.  Necessary information to improve resilience will be shared with communities through tools, training, and technical support.
  • Continue Agency planning for climate-change-related risks.  The EPA will update its climate change adaptation plan no later than 1 year after publication of each quadrennial National Climate Assessment Report required by Section 106 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990.
  • Coordinate with other federal agencies.  This will occur when challenges cross agency jurisdictions.  For example, to improve efficiency and effectiveness, coordination will be pursued when the EPA and other agencies work in the same communities.
Administrator McCarthy’s Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation
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