FACT SHEET: Actions to Build Resilience to Climate Change Impacts in Vulnerable Communities

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July 9, 2015                         

FACT SHEET: Actions to Build Resilience to Climate Change Impacts in Vulnerable Communities

With cities, states and tribes already confronting the costly impacts of climate change, the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that communities develop smart strategies and partnerships for building climate resilience. As part of his Climate Action Plan, the President established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Task Force) in 2013 to help the Federal Government respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The Task Force recommendations emphasized the importance of supporting communities that are likely to be disproportionately affected, including those that already face economic- or health-related challenges. The Third U.S. National Climate Assessment also noted that socioeconomic disparities can exacerbate the vulnerability of certain populations, including low-income, tribal, and some communities of color, due to in part to limited capacity and resources necessary to prepare and adapt.

Today, the White House is releasing a progress report highlighting some of the key actions taken by the Administration that support the Task Force’s recommendations, which were compiled and delivered to the President in November 2014.  Building on this progress, the White House is also announcing a series of new actions focused on enhancing resilience in the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change that includes over $25 million in private and public investments.



Launching a Resilience AmeriCorps Pilot Program.  The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation and Cities of Service to launch Resilience AmeriCorps, a pilot program that will recruit, train, and embed AmeriCorps VISTA members in up to 12 communities in 2015.  The 2-year pilot program responds to a recommendation made by the Task Force to assist vulnerable communities that lack the capacity to address climate-resilience planning and implementation.  The AmeriCorps VISTA members will increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas, and help those communities develop plans for becoming more resilient to any number of shocks and stresses, including better preparations for extreme weather events.  On July 15 at 2pm EDT, the White House will hold a Google+ Hangout to discuss the important role that community service can play in helping vulnerable communities become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.  The event will feature speakers from the Administration, The Rockefeller Foundation, Cities of Service, and community leaders engaged in building on-the-ground resilience.  Members of the public are encouraged to ask the participants questions during the livestreamed conversation using the Twitter handle #ActOnClimate.

Helping Tribes Prepare for Climate Impacts.  The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs is announcing $11.8 million in Tribal Climate Preparedness Grants to support tribes in planning for the impacts of climate change.  This funding will support over 104 awards that address tribal efforts for training, technical assistance, and capacity building needs.  In addition, today at the White House Tribal Youth Gathering, more than 90 tribal youth leaders will have an opportunity to have a dialogue with federal officials on issues of importance to tribal youth at a session, entitled “Our Natural Resources and Climate Change.”  Also today, the EPA is announcing that it will expand the Local Environmental Observers (LEO) network to tribal colleges and universities and engage hundreds of Alaska Native and American Indian students in sharing observations about the impacts of climate change in their communities.

Expanding Investment in the National Disaster Resilience Competition.  Today, in support of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), The Rockefeller Foundation is committing $3.2 million in additional support to build capacity in jurisdictions across the country that are working to increase their resilience to future shocks and stresses.  In June, HUD announced 40 states and local communities that will compete for funds awarded under the NDRC, which seeks to ensure that disaster recovery investments reflect the needs of low-income residents, contribute to stronger local economies, and provide amenities that improve the quality of life for all.  The Rockefeller assistance is expected to include expertise from a range of technical experts, participation in Resilience Academies, and a Resilience Summit for funders and Federal agencies in the fall, which will be open to all NDRC-eligible communities.  In addition, HUD will be offering a series of topical webinars, beginning July 30, for a broad audience of communities that will describe best practices and innovative tools that further investments in resilience.  The full schedule can be found here.

Expanding Opportunities in America’s Cities.  The Kresge Foundation is announcing an independent commitment to invest $10 million dollars over the next three years to support climate-resilience efforts in low-income communities through its Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative. The foundation already has awarded over $2 million dollars in grants through this effort. Launched in 2014, the initiative is focused on strengthening the capacity of community-based nonprofit organizations to influence local and regional climate-resilience planning, policy development, and implementation to better reflect the priorities and needs of low-income people in U.S. cities. 

Conducting a Climate Adaptation, Preparedness, and Resilience Seminar.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Exercise Division (NED) is working with the White House and federal agencies to design and conduct a seminar series focused on providing the knowledge and tools needed for communities to address local climate impacts and to develop locally relevant exercises supporting community resilience.  The first pilot seminar will be conducted in coordination with Florida International University and community representatives in the Miami area in mid- August.

Developing Regional Sea-Level Rise and Climate Information.  In response to the growing need for authoritative, place-based climate information to support preparedness planning and safeguard vulnerable communities, Federal agencies will work with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the National Ocean Council (NOC) to develop, for the first time ever, a set of sea-level rise scenarios out to 2100 that combine national coverage with regional specificity, and that address not just sea-level rise itself, but also the associated coastal flood hazards that create risks for communities.  This effort will launch in 2016, with an initial focus on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and a commitment to engage coastal stakeholders in the scenario-development process.  In addition, Federal agencies and the USGCRP will use locally-relevant climate-model projections to develop products that help decision makers better understand how temperature, precipitation, and other factors could change through the rest of this century.  Tools resulting from these efforts will be made publicly available through the Climate Resilience Toolkit at toolkit.climate.gov.  

Regional Energy Vulnerabilities & Resilience Solutions: DOE will soon release a report, “Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector:  Regional Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions,” that will assist decision makers in their efforts to enhance energy-sector resilience to climate change by assessing vulnerabilities by region and providing illustrative examples of approaches for addressing these vulnerabilities.  DOE is also developing a report on tribal energy-system vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather, which will be released later this year.

Increasing Energy Security in Native American Tribes.  DOE is announcing that five Native American Tribes are receiving on-the-ground support from the Department’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. START is aimed at moving community- and commercial-scale energy projects closer to implementation by overcoming project development challenges and barriers, helping the tribes improve their energy security, combat climate change, and build a sustainable energy future.  The 2015 projects include validating the economics of a proposed microgrid, helping to determine the best way to transport renewable energy to tribal consumers, and better understanding the economics of expanding the use of renewable energy on tribal lands.  These projects would enable the Tribes to generate and store their own electricity while also enhancing community resilience by maintaining power in the event of a storm.


Focusing on Environmental Justice.  On June 23, The White House announced the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice’s (IWG EJ) new Educate, Motivate and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative.  This initiative will focus on the next generation of climate-justice leaders and will expand collaborations with Minority-Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.  The inaugural EMI Climate Justice Leadership Training Workshop will be held in March 2016, focusing on the effects of climate change on communities, including those with minority, low-income, and/or tribal populations, and on understanding the relationships among climate change, human health, economic development, and environmental justice.  The training workshop will also discuss how EJSCREEN - EPA’s new environmental justice screening tool - can help identify and better understand potential community vulnerabilities.  EJSCREEN was recently released to the public and gives users powerful data and mapping capabilities to access environmental and demographic information at a high geographic resolution.

Launching a Regional Climate-Change Impact Webinar Series.  As announced on July 7, DOE is launching an eight-part webinar series today through its Minorities in Energy Initiative to discuss the regional impacts of climate change on minority and tribal communities.  Through this series, experts will: explain relevant findings from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment and recently released Quadrennial Energy Review, outline Federal energy-policy objectives as they relate to climate resilience for underserved communities, and discuss opportunities in renewable-energy and energy-efficiency sectors to foster a growing, next-generation workforce.  This effort supports the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, with the goal of ensuring that all students and citizens are climate-literate.

Making Climate-Smart Federal Investments.  Through its “Circular A-11” guidance document, the White House Office of Management and Budget is directing all Federal agencies to consider climate preparedness and resilience objectives as part of their Fiscal Year 2017 budget requests for construction and maintenance of Federal facilities.  For the first time, all funding requests in support of Federal facilities – from office buildings and hospitals to laboratories and warehouses – must align with climate preparedness and resilience goals.

Mainstreaming Resilience into Federal Programs.  Federal agencies continue making progress in integrating climate change considerations throughout their programs and operations.  Recent examples include:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has established a resilience champion at the Senior Executive Service level who oversees the newly founded USACE Resilience Program.  The Resilience Program Manager has assembled a team that is preparing an initial report describing existing resilience activities and next steps.  The team is also developing a Resilience Strategy with milestones and a schedule to mainstream resilience in all agency activities.
  • On June 22, USDA announced a new Department-wide policy to integrate climate change adaptation planning, implementation actions, and performance metrics into USDA’s programs, policies, and operations.  The new policy will help better position the Department to respond to the many climate stressors that have consequences for food production, yields of staple crops, and the health and resiliency of the nation’s forests and grasslands.
  • The Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, has hired a Climate Change Coordinator to strategically collaborate with other federal agencies, Insular Area governments, universities and non-governmental organizations to leverage federal initiatives and funding sources to strengthen and implement climate change adaptation plans in the insular areas.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is currently developing coursework and training programs on leadership for sustainability and climate preparedness and resilience.  This training would equip current and future leaders with tools and knowledge to address the leadership challenges of climate preparedness and resilience. 

Providing Data and Tools for Climate Preparedness.  The Administration’s Climate Data Initiative (CDI) and Climate Resilience Toolkit (CRT), launched in 2014, have made hundreds of high-values datasets, tools, and case studies freely available to the public and decision makers.  The recent releases of the “Energy” and “Transportation and Supply Chain” themes in June 2015 mark the completion of the initial focus areas of the CDI and CRT.  Building on these early successes, content, tools, and functionalities will continue to be added as new themes – such as “Tribal Nations”– are developed.  By the end of 2015, the CRT will include a new and improved “Climate Explorer,” new topical map layers that are relevant to decision makers and planners, and a mobile app.  These efforts will be supported by an increase in targeted stakeholder-engagement opportunities.