“Our Nation also faces longer wildfire seasons, more severe droughts, heavier rainfall, and more frequent flooding in a changing climate. That is why, as part of my Climate Action Plan, we are committed to building smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can withstand more frequent and more devastating natural disasters and to supporting our communities as they prepare for these impacts.” – President Obama, National Preparedness Month Proclamation
When the President signed a proclamation designating September as National Preparedness Month, he recognized that preparedness has become more important than ever in the context of our changing climate. Throughout the past month, the Administration has made important progress in supporting communities across the country – and around the world – as they prepare for the impacts of climate change we can’t avoid. Federal agencies, community leaders, and private sector industries have all taken steps that will help secure a more resilient future.
For example, in June the President announced he was creating a $1 billion competitive fund to help vulnerable communities build more climate resilient infrastructure. And this month Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro formally launched the National Disaster Resilience Competition to aid communities that have suffered major disasters in recent years and are taking steps to rebuild smarter and stronger. Additionally, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced 40 new projects that will share a $3.59 billion disaster relief fund. This money will allow states still recovering from Hurricane Sandy to create stronger, more reliable public transportation systems that can withstand future storms.
These new steps are responsive to what we’ve learned from the governors, mayors, county officials and tribal leaders serving on the President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Working closely with the Task Force, the Administration is learning a great deal about how to best support communities throughout the country by removing barriers to resilient investments, modernizing Federal grant and loan programs, and developing new information and tools for decision-makers.
But climate change is a global challenge and demands a global response. That’s why, last week at the UN Climate Summit, President Obama announced a new set of tools that harness the unique technological and scientific resources of the United States to help vulnerable countries strengthen their climate resilience. The President also announced an Executive Order requiring Federal agencies to take climate resilience into account while designing their international development programs and investments.
These actions demonstrate international leadership at a crucial time, and President Obama made it clear that the United States will continue to step up to the plate. That means involvement from all sectors, not just the Federal Government. After the Climate Resilience and Insurance Roundtable among industry leaders and senior White House officials in June, last week representatives of the property insurance industry released a joint statement highlighting the costs of extreme weather events and the importance of resilience. The five major insurance organizations that released the statement committed to engaging in a dialogue with the Administration to find ways to “better identify, communicate, and reduce the physical and economic risks and costs of extreme weather, and to increase resilience to such events.”
National Preparedness Month may be over, but carbon pollution has been building in our atmosphere for decades, and we’re going to continue to feel its impacts well into the future. The White House is committed to working across sectors to help leave behind a safer and more resilient planet.
Mike Boots leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality.