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November 07, 2013
President issues EO on climate preparedness/resilience

In a new Executive Order (EO), President Obama has followed up on a commitment he made in his June 2013 climate speech as well as instructions in earlier EOs to ramp up the federal government’s efforts to improve the nation’s ability to prepare for and withstand the effects of climate change. 

The new EO states that it is the policy of the administration to recognize that the worst consequences of climate change—such as prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, more severe droughts, and sea-level rise—are already changing the environment and affecting people, particularly in communities that already face economic or health-related challenges. 

“Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate Federal, State, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency (agency) operations, services, and programs,” states the EO.

Adaptation plans to be updated

In addition to clarifying the policy of the Executive Branch, the EO contains the following instructions regarding preparedness and resilience:

  • Modernize federal programs to support climate-resilient investment.  For example, federal agencies are told to identify and seek to remove barriers that discourage investments that increase the nation's resilience to climate change; reform policies and federal funding programs that may, perhaps unintentionally, increase the vulnerability of natural or built systems, economic sectors, natural resources, or communities to climate-change- related risks; and identify opportunities to support and encourage smarter, more climate-resilient investments by states, local communities, and tribes.
  • Manage lands and waters.  Select federal agencies, including the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the EPA, are given 9 months to complete an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed changes to their land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make the nation's watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate.  The assessments must include a timeline and plan for making changes to policies, programs, and regulations.
  • Provide information.  Federal agencies must work together to develop and provide authoritative, easily accessible, usable, and timely data, information, and decision-support tools on climate preparedness and resilience.  This effort will include establishment of a Web-based portal and other tools relevant to climate issues and decision making.
  • Agency climate adaptation plans.  The president’s October 2009 EO ordered federal agencies to develop agency adaptation plans.  These plans evaluated the most significant climate-change-related risks to, and vulnerabilities in, agency operations and missions and outlined actions that agencies will take to manage these risks and vulnerabilities.  The new EO directs agencies to report on progress made on their adaptation plans as well as any plan updates.  In addition, agencies must now regularly update their adaptation plans, completing the first update within 120 days of the EO date, with additional regular updates thereafter.
  • Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.  The EO establishes this council, which is made up of senior officials from virtually all federal agencies.  The mission of the council is to work with state, local, and tribal governments; academic and research institutions; and the private and nonprofit sectors to coordinate interagency efforts regarding climate preparedness and resilience and facilitate the integration of climate science into policies and planning.  The council replaces the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.
  • State, local, and tribal task force.  Heads of the Council on Environmental Quality and the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs will form the task force with state, local, and tribal officials.  Within one year, the task force must provide the president and the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience with recommendations on climate-related investments and partnerships; methods to remove barriers to investments, practices, and partnerships; and other tools and approaches to improving state, local, and tribal preparedness for and resilience to climate change.

The new EO

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