Preparing Our Communities for Climate Impacts: Recommendations for Federal Action (GCC)

The Georgetown Climate Center released 100 recommendations to improve federal programs that could be used to prepare for climate change. The report will inform the White House State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

The report, 'Preparing Our Communities for Climate Impacts: Recommendations for Federal Action' draws from a series of workshops with leading federal, state, and local officials and builds upon lessons learned post-disaster in New Orleans (following Hurricane Katrina), New York (following Hurricane Sandy), and Vermont (after Hurricane Irene).

The report focuses on three primary areas where federal programs can be better leveraged to support state and local adaptation:

  • Disaster relief programs (Chapter 2), the National Flood Insurance Program (Chapter 3), and programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (Chapter 4)
  • Programs that support ecosystem restoration and flood control (Chapter 5)
  • Programs that support water infrastructure (Chapter 6)

The chapter on nature-based solutions provides a summary of pathways to federally supported implementation including: the Corps civil works program, other federal funding programs that support ecosystems restoration, and the Corps regulatory program. It offers recommendations for retooling these programs to encourage the implementation of nature-based approaches on a broader scale.

The chapter on water infrastructure discusses the opportunities that the EPA and other relevant federal agencies have to support climate resilience at the state and local level through technical assistance, the State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, and regulatory flexibility. Existing authorities and programs can be used to reduce the vulnerability of wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to climate impacts.

The recommendations in the report explore how existing federal dollars, programs, regulations, and policies can be retooled, repurposed, and deployed to promote and remove barriers to adaptation.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • The federal government should fund state and local actions to prepare for climate change - rather than primarily reacting to extreme weather events that cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year. 
  • Federal agencies should ensure that communities recovering from extreme weather events with disaster relief funds are able to build back stronger to withstand future impacts.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency should incorporate climate change projections on the floodplain maps that govern federal flood insurance rates.  These updates are needed to provide communities with accurate, risk-based information for making land-use decisions and to ensure the long-term solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program. (As of March 2014, NFIP was more than $24 billion in debt.)
  • The Army Corps and other federal agencies should align funding streams and support nature-based projects that both restore coastal wetlands and provide flood control benefits (like living shorelines).

These recommendations were developed, in part, over the course of three workshops convened by the Georgetown Climate Center in late 2013 and early 2014. Participants included senior federal, state and local officials, along with experts from the non-governmental and academic communities. The workshops were held in coordination with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and relevant federal agencies.

The participants in each of these workshops who informed this report and these recommendations are listed, along with each workshop agenda in Chapter 1.

This report and the related workshops received generous support from the Kresge Foundation.


Publication Date: September 4, 2014

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