Obama Administration Officials Release Progress Report on Work of Climate Change Adaptation Task Force




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                             
October 14, 2010      

Obama Administration Officials Release Progress Report on Work of Climate Change Adaptation Task Force

WASHINGTON – A new interagency report released today outlines recommendations to President Obama for how Federal Agency policies and programs can better prepare the United States to respond to the impacts of climate change.  The report, produced by the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, recommends that the Federal Government implement actions to expand and strengthen the Nation’s capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate change.  The recommendations include making adaptation a standard part of agency planning and ensuring scientific information about the impacts of climate change is easily accessible.

The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force is co-chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and includes representatives from more than 20 Federal Agencies.  When the President signed the Executive Order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, on October 5, 2009, he called on the Task Force to develop, within one year, Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts. “Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force,” released today, provides those recommendations, based in part on numerous listening sessions and public outreach events with a wide range of stakeholders.

“Taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the effects of climate change is a priority, and we must also prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change.  Adaptation requires thoughtful, preventative actions and investments to build resilience and reduce risk,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  “The Federal Government must consider climate impacts in decision making and how it will affect our services, operations and assets throughout the country.”
“This report’s framework for climate adaptation moves science into practice to help the Nation cope with the impacts of climate change,” said Shere Abbott, Associate Director for Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It makes plain that adaptation, and not just mitigation, is absolutely necessary if we are to avoid the worst consequences of global climate change, and it outlines a course of action that will put that part of our Nation's response on track to succeed.”

“There is a growing and urgent need for society to develop and implement science-based strategies to adapt to climate change,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.  “Adaptation and resilience will require partnerships and action across all segments of society—the public sector, local to Federal government, the private sector, the nonprofit sector and individuals.  In addition, climate change impacts vary from region to region, so new approaches and preparations tailored to meet the needs and solutions for each region must also be part of our strategy.”

The Federal Government is already taking steps to build adaptive capacity and increase resilience to climate change in the United States and internationally.  In the Progress Report, the Task Force recommends that the Federal Government implement the following actions to expand and strengthen these efforts to help the Nation better understand and prepare for climate change:

  • Make adaptation a standard part of Agency planning to ensure that resources are invested wisely and services and operations remain effective in a changing climate.
  • Ensure scientific information about the impacts of climate change is easily accessible so public and private sector decision-makers can build adaptive capacity into their plans and activities.
  • Align Federal efforts to respond to climate impacts that cut across jurisdictions and missions, such as those that threaten water resources, public health, oceans and coasts, and communities. 
  • Develop a U.S. strategy to support international adaptation that leverages resources across the Federal Government to help developing countries reduce their vulnerability to climate change through programs that are consistent with the core principles and objectives of the President’s new Global Development Policy.
  • Build strong partnerships to support local, state, and tribal decision makers in improving management of places and infrastructure most likely to be affected by climate change. 

The Task Force’s work has been guided by a strategic vision of a resilient, healthy, and prosperous Nation in the face of a changing climate.  To achieve this vision, the Task Force identified a set of guiding principles that public and private decision-makers should consider in designing and implementing adaptation strategies.  They include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Adopt Integrated Approaches:  Adaptation should be incorporated into core policies, planning, practices, and programs whenever possible.
  • Prioritize the Most Vulnerable:  Adaptation strategies should help people, places, and infrastructure that are most vulnerable to climate impacts and be designed and implemented with meaningful involvement from all parts of society.
  • Use Best-Available Science:  Adaptation should be grounded in the best-available scientific understanding of climate change risks, impacts, and vulnerabilities. 
  • Apply Risk-Management Methods and Tools:  Adaptation planning should incorporate risk-management methods and tools to help identify, assess, and prioritize options to reduce vulnerability to potential environmental, social, and economic implications of climate change.
  • Apply Ecosystem-based Approaches:  Adaptation should, where appropriate, take into account strategies to increase ecosystem resilience and protect critical ecosystem services on which humans depend, to reduce vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change.

The Task Force will establish, by Spring 2011, a partnership committee composed of local, state, and Tribal representatives to consult with the Federal Government as it begins to implement the recommended actions.  The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, with the advice of the Task Force’s Agency Adaptation workgroup, will develop implementing instructions within 120 days for how agencies should undertake adaptation planning.  Through this planning process, agencies will develop and implement strategic plans that identify how and where adaptation should be incorporated into their programs, policies, and regulations.

The Task Force will continue to meet over the next year as an interagency forum for discussing the Federal Government’s adaptation approach and to support and monitor the implementation of recommended actions in the Progress Report.  It will prepare another report in October 2011 that documents progress toward implementing its recommendations and provides additional recommendations for refining the Federal approach to adaptation, as appropriate.  The full report can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/ceq.