EPA Releases New Policy Statement On Climate Change Adaptation

by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

On June 26, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation intended “to help the nation prepare for and respond to the impacts of a changing climate,” according to an EPA press release announcing the document. The new statement is available online. Since the publication of the first EPA Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation in June 2011, EPA claims that new and stronger evidence indicates that human-caused climate change is affecting people in every region of the U.S. According to EPA, the U.S. is now seeing a wide range of impacts associated with human-induced climate change. These impacts pose significant challenges to EPA’s ability to accomplish its mission, and it must adapt if it is to continue fulfilling its statutory, regulatory and programmatic requirements, EPA stated.

To that end, the new policy statement describes the following actions EPA intends to take:

  • Alter EPA financial assistance programs to encourage climate resilient investments: EPA will encourage and support smarter, more climate-resilient investments by states, tribes and local communities. It will do so by integrating climate-adaptation considerations into discretionary and nondiscretionary financial mechanisms that support state, tribal and community actions where climate change is recognized as relevant to the actions being undertaken. This includes agency grants, cooperative agreements, loans, technical assistance, contracts and other programs in which the outcomes to be supported are understood to be sensitive to changes in climate, such as clean air and safe drinking water, or would be more effective if they incorporate considerations of climate change, such as development of models and tools to support decision making.
  • Provide information, tools, training and technical support for climate-change preparedness and resilience: EPA will continue to support regions, states, tribes, local communities and the private sector by producing and delivering information, data, tools, training and technical support they need to increase resilience and adapt to climate change. This effort will be coordinated with and linked to the interagency initiative established under Executive Order 13653 to build a climate.data.gov Web-based portal for data and tools relevant to climate issues and decision making.
  • Implement priority actions identified in EPA’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan and the Implementation Plans: EPA will carry out the 10 priority actions called for in its Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Every EPA national-program and regional office will begin to implement the priority actions identified in its implementation plan. EPA will make these actions a priority within the annual budget process.
  • Focus on the most vulnerable people and places: EPA will continue to place special emphasis on and work in partnership with overburdened populations. Certain parts of the population, such as children; the elderly; the poor; tribes and indigenous people; environmental-justice communities; and small rural communities, can be especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. EPA will engage the most vulnerable communities to improve their capacity to prepare for and avoid damages from climate-change impacts. EPA will give special consideration to tribes to support the development of their adaptive capacity, given the unique government-to-government relationship that exists between the U.S. government and the 565 federally recognized tribes.
  • Measure and evaluate performance: EPA recognizes the importance of monitoring performance, evaluating activities and acting on the lessons learned. EPA will evaluate its climate change-adaptation actions on an ongoing basis to assess its progress toward implementing climate-change-adaptation planning through the agency's programs, policies, rules and operations; modernizing programs in ways that encourage climate-resilient investments; and providing information, tools, training and technical support that communities need to increase resilience and adapt to climate change. Through ongoing evaluation, the agency will continue to improve how it mainstreams climate change-adaptation planning into its activities. EPA will evaluate what worked and why, as well as what did not work and why not. Based on the lessons, EPA will adjust the way adaptation is integrated into its activities.
  • Continue planning for climate change related risk: Consistent with the requirements of Executive Order 13653, EPA will regularly update its Climate Change Adaptation Plan no later than one year after the publication of each quadrennial National Climate Assessment Report required by section 106 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (15 U.S.C. 2936). EPA will also report on progress made under its Climate Change Adaptation Plan, as well as any updates made to the plan, through the annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan process.
  • Coordinate with other federal agencies: EPA will coordinate with other federal agencies on climate-change-adaptation challenges that cut across agency jurisdictions. EPA will also coordinate its activities with other federal agencies when working in the same communities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the combined federal effort. EPA will also support the activities of the White House Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which coordinates and tracks progress on all interagency efforts related to climate preparedness and resilience.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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