On October 7, 2021, as part of President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate crisis, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its climate adaptation and resilience plan to ensure its facilities and operations adapt and are increasingly resilient to climate change impacts.
There is as yet no indication whether the plans are an end unto themselves, or whether they will be followed by the creation of a strategic process for implementation. If the latter, that might be a first for the U.S. government.
“With the Climate Adaptation Plan, HUD is taking an agency-wide approach in prioritizing climate resilience because we cannot put America on the path to building a stronger and more sustainable housing infrastructure without addressing the impacts of climate change,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge.
Federal agencies, and the people they serve, face a multitude of risks caused by climate change. This includes rising costs to maintain and repair damaged infrastructure from more frequent and extreme weather events and health and safety challenges to the communities across the country. Acting now to manage climate risk will increase the resilience of communities to wildfires, extreme heat, tropical storms, heavy rains, and other disasters made worse by a changing climate.
To address these challenges, President Biden prioritized the revitalization of federal agency climate adaptation and resilience planning after a four-year pause. Through this approach, agencies developed adaptation and resilience plans, called “climate action plans,” to address their most significant climate risks and vulnerabilities.
HUD’s plan seeks to drive innovation, increase resilience to climate change, and support the President’s commitment to implementing his Justice40 Initiative. The climate action plans were developed 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 programs and operations 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 historic investments in green and resilient housing.
HUD, alongside more than 20 major federal agencies, has now made available its climate adaptation and resilience plan.
Highlights from HUD’s plan include:
- Updating climate risk data and research. HUD will update its policies and operations to create a more climate-resilient system. As a first step, the Department will collect building-level data across HUD programs to map existing climate risks and environmental justice concerns. This will help inform the Department on how to best address climate impacts and protect HUD-assisted assets and their occupants, with a focus on underserved communities. HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research will work to assess the effectiveness of current building efficiency codes and recovery programs and identify resilience best practices that the agency can adopt to promote investments in climate resilience;
- Reducing climate-related financial risks in mortgage financing. HUD is collaborating with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Agriculture to consider approaches to better integrate climate-related financial risk into underwriting standards, loan terms and conditions, and asset management and servicing procedures (per EO 14030). HUD is also exploring market strategies to incentivize both energy and water efficiency and climate-resilient building practices. HUD recognizes these steps as critical to ensuring the best use of taxpayer dollars in response to changing climatic conditions;
- Strengthening disaster recovery and resilience. The greatest asset to our country is our people, and HUD recognizes the need to better protect America’s communities from the impacts of climate change. HUD will update Disaster Recovery and Mitigation grant requirements to promote resilience and environmental justice, ensuring that communities recovering from disasters are more resilient in the future. HUD will also strengthen its floodplain management regulations to focus on increasing flood resilience, promoting environmental justice, improving fiscal security, and minimizing adverse impacts to the beneficial functions of floodplains and wetlands;
- Building a more equitable future. Climate change and its impacts exacerbate existing health and socioeconomic inequities, placing certain populations at particular risk. Addressing environmental inequities is at the core of HUD’s mission to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities. HUD will create spaces for mutual learning around climate change, its impacts, and environmental justice issues impacting low-income, communities of color, tribal communities, individuals with disabilities, and other protected classes; and
- Identifying leadership and accountability. For the first time, agencies have tasked senior leadership with ensuring steady progress on agency-wide adaptation and resilience efforts. HUD has established an internal Climate and Environmental Justice Council with representation at the Assistant Secretary level and led by HUD’s Senior Advisor for Climate Change with support from the Office of Environment and Energy. The Climate and Environmental Justice Council will manage the implementation and monitoring of the climate adaptation plan and is responsible for the long-term integration of climate and environmental justice into HUD’s programs and operations.
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.
The Agencies releasing a Climate Action Plan are:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Defense
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Justice
- Department of Labor
- Department of State
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Development Finance Corporation
- Environmental Protection Agency
- General Services Administration
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Office of Personal Management
- Smithsonian Institution
- U.S. Agency for International Development
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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