Today, as part of President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate crisis, Army Civil Works released its climate adaptation and resilience plan for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to ensure its Civil Works projects and operations adapt and are increasingly resilient to climate change impacts.
Federal agencies face a multitude of risks caused by climate change including rising costs to maintain and repair damaged infrastructure from more frequent and extreme weather events, program effectiveness, and health and safety challenges to federal employees who work outside. Taking climate risk management actions now will mitigate disruptions to federal operations, assets and programs, and these actions will create safer worker conditions.
To address these challenges, President Biden prioritized the revitalization of federal agency climate adaptation and resilience planning efforts after a four-year pause. Through this approach, large agencies developed adaptation and resilience plans, called “climate action plans,” to address their most significant climate risks and vulnerabilities. The plans address leveraging procurement to drive innovation and increase resilience against supply chain disruptions and are in line with the President’s commitment to implementing his Justice40 Initiative. The climate adaptation and resilience plans were previously submitted to and reviewed by the National Climate Task Force, White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
As part of these efforts, agencies will embed adaptation and resilience planning and implementation throughout their operations and programs, and will continually update their adaptation plans. In addition to these plans, President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal include bold, historic, and transformational investments to strengthen our nation’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, including upgrading power infrastructure, rebuilding America’s roads and bridges, and more.
Today, Army Civil Works, alongside more than 20 major federal agencies, is making available the USACE climate adaptation and resilience plan.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Climate Action Plan provides actions that demonstrate how the Corps continues to further their efforts to address climate adaptation and resilience in all aspects of Civil Works projects and operations,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime A. Pinkham. “This is a vital component of identifying the contribution of the Corps to the Administration’s goals for resilient infrastructure and community preparedness.”
Highlights from the USACE plan include:
- Safeguarding Federal investments. Agencies identified which programs and missions are most at risk from climate change. This first step is critical to ensuring the best use of taxpayer dollars in response to changing climatic conditions. For example, the USACE will perform an initial screening of their existing Civil Works projects for exposure to climate change impacts, based on projections of future climate conditions and project-specific indicator metrics, to prioritize projects for further detailed study.
- Identifying leadership and accountability. For the first time, agencies identified senior leadership and created new accountability structures so that adaptation and resilience is led from the top. For example, USACE has identified the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works as the senior point of contact for climate preparedness and resilience, and the Chief of Engineering and Construction, who oversees the Climate Preparedness and Resilience Community of Practice, as the senior official responsible for executing climate preparedness and resilience.
- Developing a more resilient supply chain. Agencies are revamping supply chain policies and operations to create a more climate-resilient system. For example, USACE will continue to integrate projections of future sea-level change into planning navigation projects to ensure waterborne supply chains are prepared for future conditions and investigate partnering with the U.S. Coast Guard to use rapidly deployable channel markers after floods and storms to reduce navigational downtime.
- Enhancing protections for workers and communities. The greatest asset to our country and Federal Government is our people. Agencies recognize the need to better support America’s workers from the impacts of climate change. For example, USACE will explore new mechanisms for contracting with hotels and other properties to provide safe, comfortable temporary housing for workers responding to emergencies and extreme weather events, which may become more common as the climate continues to change.
- Building a more equitable future. Climate change and its impacts may exacerbate existing health and socioeconomic inequities, placing certain populations at particular risk. To tackle this challenge, agencies outlined their actions in support of this Administration’s environmental justice objectives. For example, USACE will continue to leverage programs and assets such as the Silver Jackets teams, Floodplain Management Services Program, and district Tribal Liaisons to build the adaptation capacity of disproportionately affected communities and help USACE gain better understanding of their capacity to adapt to climate change.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Management and Budget seek public input on the agency climate adaptation plans. Members of the public may submit comments via the docket at https://www.regulations.gov/ (Docket ID: CEQ–2021–0003) until Nov. 6, 2021. CEQ also will hold a virtual convening this fall with national organizations who have expertise in climate adaptation and resilience or have expressed interest in the agency plans.
All plans are available at www.sustainability.gov/adaptation.