Many tribal nations have developed model climate adaptation plans to increase their resilience, yet most tribal communities still need the knowhow and resources to cope with the swift pace of climate disruptions.
This last year has seen prolonged drought in the West, rogue blizzards in the East and Midwest, sandstorms whipping the scorched Southwest, flooding in the Pueblos, villages succumbing to Alaska’s melting permafrost, and everywhere, erratic weather patterns.
President Obama proposed a $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund in his $3.9 trillion 2015 budget request sent to Congress on March 4, to help state, local, and tribal governments prepare for these and other impacts of climate change. The Fund includes “investing in research and unlocking data, and helping communities plan and prepare, and funding breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure that will help communities across the country better prepare for the effects of climate change,” Cecelia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, said during a March 4 White House briefing.
“We take very seriously our partnership with state, local and tribal governments who are engaged now in deliberate work to prepare and coordinate planning for the impacts of climate change, including the extreme weather conditions which many parts of the country have been experiencing,” Munoz said.
The Fund is a response to demand from across the country—including from the President’s new Task Force of governors, mayors, tribal leaders and other local officials who have been advising the Administration on how to help them protect communities across the Nation from climate impacts, a White House factsheet said.
Obama’s budget request supports the development of a Climate Resilience Toolkit and Climate Data Initiative, called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan, to make federally supported science more accessible to those who need it on the ground. Steve Winkelman, director of the Center for Clean Air Policy’s adaptation and transportation programs told Environmental News Service (ENS) that the Fund will save taxpayers billions of dollars annually, provide greater protection to the public in the face of increasing extreme weather events, decrease human suffering, reduce business interruption and create more resilient housing and infrastructure.
“Hazard mitigation measures yield more than a four-dollar return for every one dollar invested,” Winkelman told ENS. “If we prepare better now, we can trim disaster aid in the future and reduce the financial exposure of both the federal government and American businesses.”
ENS also reported that the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account continues to be the largest percentage of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget request. It prioritizes funding for state categorical grants to assist states and tribes, the primary implementers of environmental programs, with $96.4 million requested for Tribal General Assistance Program grants, representing a nearly $31 million increase over Fiscal Year 2014.
The budget request includes continued support for the Department of Health and Human Services work on human health and climate. The Department of Transportation will work with communities to minimize the effects of extreme weather and climate change on critical transportation infrastructure. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior will provide grants and technical support to promote water conservation and efficiency. The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies will continue to provide technical assistance and funding for sustainable communities, and Interior will support efforts by tribal communities to enhance their own preparedness.