By Patrick D. Joyce and Craig B. Simonsen

This week at the U.N. Climate Change Summit in New York City, President Barack Obama, joined by leaders from more than 120 countries from around the globe, announced his Executive Order on Climate-Resilient International Development. 79 Fed. Reg. 58231 (September 26, 2014).

The Executive Order directs all federal agencies to factor climate change into their international development programs and investments and to evaluate climate-related risks to overseas programs, facilities, and projects.  We consider this announcement important to our clients, as many conduct or plan to conduct business on an international scale, and may be interacting with federal agencies on their projects overseas.

To increase the effectiveness of these projects, the Executive Order requires that agencies:

  • Improve the resilience of the international development programs, projects, investments, overseas facilities, and other funding decisions through consideration of current and future climate-change impacts, as appropriate;
  • Share knowledge, data, tools, information, frameworks, and lessons learned in incorporating climate-resilience considerations; and
  • Complement efforts by the Federal Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home and globally.

Along with the Executive Order, the President announced “a new set of tools to harness the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States to help vulnerable populations around the world strengthen their climate resilience.”  The tools include:

  • Improved and extended extreme weather risk outlooks to help avoid loss of life and property;
  • Data, tools and services to enable countries to better prepare for the impacts of climate change, including a new release of global elevation data; and
  • An announcement of a new public-private partnership to ensure that the climate data, tools, and products made available by U.S. technical agencies are useful to developing countries.

In his speech, the President acknowledged the role of the United States in creating potential global warming impacts and called on other nations to join the fight against climate change.

According to the Whitehouse, U.S. financial support for “adaptation activities” in developing countries has increased eightfold since 2009.  “Adaptation” requires adjustments in natural or human systems in anticipation of a changing global environment.  For example, development investments in areas like eradicating malaria, building hydropower facilities, improving agricultural yields, and developing transportation systems will not be effective in the long term if adverse impacts such as shifting ranges of disease-carrying mosquitoes, changing water availability, or rising sea levels are not accounted for.

The Whitehouse also put out a Fact Sheet regarding the President’s announcement.