Federal agencies Feb. 7 released their third annual sustainability plans, which
for the first time include steps to adapt to climate change.
The adaptation plans outline initiatives to reduce the vulnerability of
federal assets, programs, and investments to climate change impacts such as sea
level rise and more frequent and severe weather, the White House Council on
Environmental Quality said.
Federal agencies are required to develop sustainability plans outlining how
they will meet environmental and energy goals set in Executive Order No. 13,514,
which was issued by President Obama in 2009. Agencies are required to reduce
petroleum use in vehicles by 30 percent by 2020, improve water efficiency by 26
percent by 2020, divert or recycle 50 percent of waste by 2015, and meet other
targets under the order.
The climate change adaptation plans are part of larger agency sustainability
plans. Agencies also included fleet management plans and strategies to purchase
more biobased-products in their sustainability plans in 2012.
The 2012 sustainability plans were reviewed by CEQ and then approved by the
White House Office of Management and Budget before being made publicly
The climate change adaptation plans will be open for public comment for 60
The sustainability plan for the Agriculture Department states that the
department has reduced indirect greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 percent
since 2008, has reduced potable water use by nearly 19 percent since 2007, and
has purchased or generated renewable energy equivalent to nearly 20 percent its
total electricity use.
The sustainability plan for the Interior Department states that the
department has reduced potable water intensity by more than 11 percent since
2007, among other reductions.
Building the country's capacity to adapt to climate change is part of the
Environmental Protection Agency's mission to protect human health and the
environment, the agency said in its climate
change adaptation plan.
Climate change is likely to increase tropospheric ozone levels over broad
areas of the country, which may increase the vulnerability of U.S. citizens to
air pollution, EPA said. As a result, it may be more difficult to attain or
maintain ozone standards, which may require EPA to implement new control
measures, the agency said.
Climate change will also affect the quality and availability of drinking
water supplies, and EPA may need to take action to address these issues, the
agency said. Increasing heavy-precipitation events from climate change may
increase the pollutants in runoff, dirtying streams and threatening public
health, EPA said.
EPA said it will integrate climate change adaptation planning into its
programs and policies; increase the resilience of EPA facilities in coastal
areas to protect them from severe weather, flood damage, and sea level rise; and
help communities in vulnerable areas, such as low-lying coastal areas, reduce
their exposure to climate change impacts.
Elizabeth Martin Perera, senior Washington representative at the Sierra Club,
said in a Feb. 7 statement: “It's good to see the government coming to terms
with the impacts of climate disruption at the agency-level and now we hope these
agencies will rapidly transition to a low-carbon and more resilient future. The
Sierra Club is happy to see the government release these plans that evaluate
risks and vulnerabilities of both the short- and long-term effects of climate
disruption on everything the government does.”
Daniel Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center
for American Progress, said in an emailed statement: “The horrible devastation
from super storm Sandy and other recent climate related extreme weather events
makes it essential that EPA and other federal agencies help communities protect
their residents and infrastructure from future floods, drought, heat waves,
storms, and wildfires.
“At the same time, the federal government must adopt policies to reduce the
industrial carbon pollution responsible for climate change, beginning with
existing power plants,” he said.
By Avery Fellow
The federal sustainability plans are available at http://sustainability.performance.gov/.
The EPA climate change adaptation plan is available at http://epa.gov/climatechange/pdfs/EPA-climate-change-adaptation-plan-final-for-public-comment-2-7-13.pdf.