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Friday, February 8, 2013

Third Annual Sustainability Plans for U.S. Agencies

On February 7th, 2013 U.S. federal agencies released their third annual Sustainability PlansUnder Executive Order 13514, Federal agencies are required to develop, implement, and annually update a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that describes how they will achieve the environmental, economic, and energy goals mandated in the Executive Order. As climate adaptation is of the elements to be included in the plans, it would be fair to ask how extensive is the adaptation planning conducted by the agencies. The adaptation plans themselves vary significantly from agency to agency, ranging in length from a few pages to a few dozen. The interpretation of adaptation is fairly loose, as agencies describe a broad range of activities, some of which pertain to climate change and adaptation, but many of which are general environmental management functions. At times, it's not entirely clear if the agencies understand the distinction between mitigation and adaptation or whether they are addressing their own operations or those of their stakeholder communities. By and large the plans outline general principles for adaptation and various motherhood statements, without much detail with respect to risks or adaptation measures. Yet, to be fair, it's not entirely clear how some federal agencies, such as the Railroad Retirement Board, should be adapting to climate change. Some agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, appear to at least have a process in place, as the EPA states that implementation plans will be developed within the EPA regional offices by 2015. But, clearly, the federal government doesn't appear to be in any particular hurry. And given the plethora of guidance now available out there on how to undertake adaptation planning, it's a bit disappointing that U.S. agencies don't appear to have read any of it.  

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