New Executive Order: U.S. Must Consider Climate Change When Helping Other Countries

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

All future federal government investments in international development programs will have to consider how climate change will impact those programs, and factor that consideration into the investment plan, according to a new executive order expected to be announced Tuesday.

President Barack Obama will announce the executive order during a speech before more than 120 world leaders at the U.N. climate summit in New York City, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday. Specifically, Earnest said the order will require government agencies to “factor climate resilience into the design of their international development programs and investments” in order to make sure those investments are sustainable in the long term.

“The President will announce a suite of planned tools that will harness the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States to help vulnerable populations around the world strengthen their climate resilience,” Earnest said.

Climate resilience refers to the capacity of any state, town, or project to absorb the impacts of climate change — whether that be sea level rise, drought, wildfires, or extreme weather. It differs from the process of merely adapting to the effects of climate change as they come along; rather, resiliency assures that projects are prepared for those effects before they happen.

Obama is also expected to announce a series of vague “new climate change partnerships” at the summit. While the summit is not an official U.N. negotiating session, many hope the event will be something of a motivator for international leaders to develop some real practicable ideas to fight climate change before the bigger international climate conference in Paris next year.

In an apparent attempt to jump-start that motivation, Obama has announced numerous climate-related actions in the days leading up to Tuesday’s summit. Last week, the administration announced $70 million in funding toward bringing more solar power to homes and businesses, and improving energy efficiency in rural areas. It also announced new energy efficiency standards for packaged terminal air conditioners.

The actions announced last week are expected to cut carbon pollution by more than 60 million metric tons every year, the equivalent of taking about 12 million cars off the road annually, according to White House estimates.