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How Federal Agencies Are Catalyzing Climate Resilience

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan called sustainability investments a “triple win.”

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In response to increasing natural disasters and the other effects of climate change, government is accelerating its journey to clean energy and buying green. Agencies are also working to aid those who have been impacted by climate events and pollution.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has prepared toolkits with recovery resources for consumers who have suffered financially from events such as Hurricane Ian — a reality more Americans are facing every day.

“Making sure that we have climate resilience is part and parcel of what CFPB is and takes to heart,” said Tiina Rodrigue, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CISO, at Imagine Nation ELC this week. “We’ve been working specifically on this because it is another form of consumer protection.”

And the financial costs associated with climate change are only anticipated to grow. Rodrigue cited an OMB analysis that found that climate change could cost the US $2 trillion each year by 2100.

“This is not a situation where we can just look away,” she said. “We need to take immediate fiscal steps in order to resolve this concern.”

As part of its climate resilience work, CFPB is also focused on equity and reaching underserved communities. Under President Joe Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, 40% of federal investments in climate and clean energy have been directed to benefit communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.

The Department of Energy (DOE) will also play a major role in implementing the Justice40 Initiative.

“Energy justice, it’s not just an environmental issue — it’s an economic issue,” CIO Ann Dunkin said. “It impacts the quality of life, and in fact, the span of life of people in communities that are not well served.”

Having moved to Washington, D.C. from California, which suffers from droughts, Dunkin says that she has felt the immediate impacts of climate change. She recently saw that her old home was flagged in the middle of a wildfire emergency evacuation zone.

“We live in an area where climate change is a little less obvious around because we don’t have water problems, we don’t have fire problems,” Dunkin said. “But the rest of the country is really feeling this and we really need to need to take action — and DC is a place where we can take a lot of action.”

Over the next five years, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will stand up 60 new DOE programs. DOE will be partnering with states, communities, and industry to move the US economy toward clean energy and lower carbon emissions by strengthening the nation’s outdated energy infrastructure.

Together, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act have delivered historic investments in sustainability. These investments, in combination with President Bident’s executive orders on sustainable acquisition, are pushing all of government to begin buying green.

“We care more about sustainability in the materials we buy, the vehicles we buy, in the supply chain from the start, than ever before,” said Robin Carnahan, General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator, during an Imagine Nation ELC panel. “It is not just GSA, it is government-wide. So, the more you can support and help your partners think through emissions and climate-related costs through the supply chain, the more you’ll be helping them because this is going to increasingly be a factor as government makes purchasing decisions going forward.”

Looking ahead, Dunkin hopes that industry will step up to partner in supply chain analysis for greenhouse gas emissions.

“There are companies out there that do supply chain analysis,” Dunkin said. “You can tell us where something’s manufactured. You can tell us where the components came from. You can tell us who invested in those companies. Well, you can also tell us the greenhouse gas emissions. That’s where I look back at industry and say, you’ve got 95% of the answer, give us the rest of it.”

For Carnahan, buying green makes sense from multiple perspectives.

“To me, this makes sense because it is a triple win,” she said. “Not only is it good for the environment and the health of our planet and our kids, it’s great for creating jobs in America, and it’s great for saving tax money on lower energy costs.”

As part of its sustainable acquisition policy development, a GSA Acquisition Policy Federal Advisory Committee (GAP FAC) is meeting this year to develop recommendations for building a future-ready workforce, incentivizing an innovative domestic supply chain, and embedding sustainability considerations in government purchasing decisions.

The committee’s mission aligns with a series of executive orders that laid out President Biden’s goal to achieve net-zero federal carbon emissions by 2050. In particular, Biden’s Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability called upon GSA to leverage the government’s purchasing power to promote climate-conscious acquisition. In response, government has already begun to include more sustainability language and requirements in its contracts, with more federal acquisition regulations on the way.

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