Adaptation Policy and Plan
Water resources infrastructure, both constructed and natural, manages hydrologic extremes and reduces the risks associated with too much or too little water. Climate change directly impacts temperature, and precipitation, and hence floods and droughts. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) must be able to perform our missions and operations despite dynamic conditions, whether these result from climate change alone or in combination with other global changes such as demographic shifts, land use/land cover changes, world population growth, aging infrastructure, persistent conflict, declining biodiversity, globalization, climate variability and change, and changing social values and economic conditions.
In June 2011, Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, released a Policy Statement (pdf, 201 KB) that calls for integrating climate change adaptation into all that USACE does. The Policy Statement also points out that we should do this now based on the best available and actionable science and that we should consider climate change impacts when undertaking long-term planning, setting priorities, and making decisions. The Policy Statement says that "Mainstreaming climate change adaptation means that it will be considered at every step in the project life cycle for all USACE projects, both existing and planned… to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience of our water-resource infrastructure."
The Policy Statement establishes the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works as the Agency official responsible for ensuring implementation of all aspects of this policy. Through this Policy, USACE establishes the USACE Climate Change Adaptation Steering Committee to oversee and coordinate agency-wide climate change adaptation planning and implementation.
Mainstreaming adaptation, as described in the Policy Statement, combined with the actions taken to improve energy and water conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as described in the USACE Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan prepared in response to Executive Order 13514, will help us adapt to impacts from climate change and mitigate climate change.
In mainstreaming adaptation, our goal is to develop practical, nationally consistent, legally justifiable, and cost effective measures, both structural and nonstructural, to reduce vulnerabilities and improve the resilience of our water resources infrastructure impacted by climate change and other global changes.
The USACE recognizes the very significant differences between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation in terms of physical complexity, fiscal and material resources, level of knowledge and technical readiness, and temporal and geographic scale. Because of these differences, understanding and implementing climate adaptation policies and measures requires very different knowledge, skills, and abilities than implementing mitigation measures. As a result, the Climate Change Adaptation Steering Committee is chaired by the Chief, Engineering and Construction.
2013 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report
In June 2013, USACE submitted its 2013 Climate Change Adaptation Plan (pdf, 1.94 MB) to CEQ and OMB as part of the USACE Sustainability Plan. The 2013 Adaptation Plan contains updates to information provided in the 2012 Plan, including responses to public comments received regarding the 2020 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report.
2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (Released for Public Comment Period on 7 February 2013)
In accordance with the March 2011 Implementing Instructions, USACE prepared and submitted a 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (pdf, 2.13 MB) to CEQ and OMB. This Plan and Report is included as an Appendix to the USACE FY12 Sustainability Plan.
The USACE 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report is a product of the USACE Adaptation Steering Committee in support of the USACE Senior POC for Adaptation, ASA/CW Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, and represents an update to the 2011 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (see below).
The Adaptation Steering Committee, chaired by Chief of Engineering Mr. James C. Dalton, PE, has actively promoted the development of policy and guidance to improve the resilience and decrease the vulnerability of our missions, operations, programs, projects, and systems of projects to the effects of climate change and variability. USACE has been working actively with its partners and stakeholders to develop consistent national policy and guidance based on the best available and actionable science. A brief overview of progress on policy and guidance is attached here. (pdf, 385 KB)
USACE received public review and comments on this Agency Adaptation Plan during a 60-day public comment period beginning 7 Feb 2013.
FY 2011 Adaptation Plan and Report
Adaptation strategies and policies are needed to support the continuing ability of water resources infrastructure to reduce the risks posed by climate change. The USACE Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report 2011 (pdf, 2.88 MB), revised in September 2011, is the USACE response to the Implementing Instructions. The Report also answers the guiding questions posed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Implementing Instructions and describes our progress and future priorities.
USACE is taking a collaborative partnering approach with other Federal agencies that takes advantage of our different perspectives and expertise so our progress on adaptation reflects the best available and actionable science. USACE is also working to help guide the science related to adaptation to better meet USACE needs and the needs of other land and water resources agencies.
Our approach is phased, allowing us to identify uncertainties, whether in climate projections or in systems responses so we begin adaptation in areas where uncertainties are relatively smaller and the risk of adverse or unintended consequences is lower.
We are developing and implementing plans, policies, and infrastructure adaptation in parallel, rather than sequentially, so adaptation begins soonest for projects that are most vulnerable. These efforts include:
- Pilot-testing adaptation methods, sharing lessons learned within and outside the Corps, and refining our adaptation based on the new knowledge gained from those pilot tests.
- Working within a risk-informed framework that considers all of the challenges facing the Corps, which will enable USACE to implement integrated water resources management solutions to the impacts of climate change.
- Conducting a nationwide screening-level assessment of vulnerability to climate change. The results of this assessment will be refined in future phases, including detailed, project level assessments and regional assessments.
Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012 Priorities
As described in our FY 2011 and FY 2012 Adaptation Plans and Reports, our highest priorities for FY11 and FY12 include:
- Continued support to the National Action Plan to Manage Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate
- Continued development, testing, and implementation of a framework for risk-informed decision-making for climate change
- Continued interagency and expert progress on addressing the critical need for guidance in the case of nonstationary hydrology
- Continued work on developing best practice guidelines for how to select from the portfolio of approaches to develop climate information appropriate for different decisions
- Continued refinement of our vulnerability assessments to include bottom-up approaches at the project level
- Development and application of metrics and endpoints to measure adaptation effectiveness
Implementing Instructions for Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation
The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a set of Implementing Instructions for Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation on 4 March 2011 in response to the growing awareness that Federal agencies must begin to plan for and adapt to climate change.
This awareness stemmed from a growing body of evidence that climate has always changed and will change in the future, both globally and locally. Extensive records from ice cores, tree rings, sediment cores, glacier lengths and others, as summarized in a 2006 National Research Council report demonstrate the changing nature of climate. These changes can occur either gradually or abruptly. The best available scientific evidence based on observations from long-term monitoring networks indicates that climate change is occurring, with effects differing regionally.
President's Climate Action Plan
The President's Climate Action Plan (CAP) released 25 June 2013 reinforces previous actions to conserve energy and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive anthropogenic climate change (Climate Change Mitigation), acknowledges that we must prepare for adverse impacts of climate change (Climate Change Adaptation), and stresses international leadership and collaboration for both mitigation and adaptation plans and actions.
The highest priority in the CAP is to prepare for the impacts of climate change by building stronger and more resilient communities and protecting natural resources based on sound science. Climate change is causing the weather to become more extreme, and this trend can be expected to continue into the future as climate continues to change. The economic and public health consequences of these weather extremes require us to act now. The three key pillars of the CAP are:
- Cut carbon pollution: Climate change mitigation to avoid unmanageable consequences
- Prepare for climate change: Climate change adaptation to manage unavoidable consequences
- Lead international efforts to combat climate change and prepare for its impacts
This Adaptation Plan primarily addresses adaptation in the context of the second two pillars, but also provides information on our efforts around biosequestration and integrating adaptation and mitigation.
EO 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
EO 13653 , released on 1 November2013, supplements EO 13514 (Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance), which is primarily concerned with water conservation and climate change mitigation through energy conservations and greenhouse gas emissions. Section 7(i) of EO 13514 required agencies to evaluate climate-change risks and vulnerabilities to manage the effects of climate change on the agency's operations and mission in both the short and long term. USACE completed several high-level analyses of vulnerabilities in accordance with Section 8(i), and began the process of phased vulnerability assessments which are being refined over time. Section 16 of EO 13514 laid out agency roles to support the Federal Adaptation Strategy, including participation in the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force (CCATF), development of a governance structure, and some general language about developing approaches, policies, and practices to support adaptation. The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, was names as the Senior Adaptation Point of Contact and served as the USACE principal on the CCATF. The USACE Climate Change Adaptation Steering Committee was formed to oversee USACE climate change adaptation activities. An overarching agency adaptation policy was released by Ms. Darcy on 3 June 2011, and subsequent policy and guidance has been released through the Adaptation Steering Committee.
In contrast, EO 13653 contains very specific language, goals, and objectives to prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience. EO 13653 requires agency policy to engage in partnering and information sharing, support risk-informed decision-making and associated tools, incorporate adaptive learning so that experience informs and guides adjustments to future actions, and undertake climate preparedness planning. In doing so, agencies are to modernize federal programs to support climate resilient investment, and manage lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience. Specific requirements for agency Adaptation Plans are described. A new Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience replaces the CCATF, and Council Working Groups are established, some of which continue CCATF Working Groups. A State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force was convened to make recommendations to improve climate preparedness and resilience for States, local communities, and tribes.
Need help understanding Executive Order (EO) 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change? Want to know how to increase resiliency and prepare for a changing environment? GSA, with the assistance of theUS Global Change Research Program, has developed a Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool) that can walk you through a hot annotated version of EO 13653 and provide information on definitions, strategies, and links along the way. Hot annotations, or clickable terms, appear as you explore the EO on the SFTool. The annotations contain three different types of valuable information about successfully putting policy into action:
- External Resources: Links to federal external resources that can help your agency better understand and implement EO 13653.
- Definitions: Information on new terminology from federal sources.
- Strategies & Best Practices: Learn how other federal agencies are taking steps to prepare for a changing climate.
revised 6 March 2014
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