In a continued effort to ramp up the focus on global climate change, President Obama issued an executive order in September that expanded the US’s policy on climate resiliency to international development projects. This added focus on climate resilience (the ability of programs and projects to withstand the impacts of global climate change) has the potential to become an important component in the funding decisions of development agencies with international investments like USAID and OPIC, as well as multilateral agencies with federal relationships, including the United Nations.
Specifically, Executive Order 13677, “Climate-Resilient International Development,” establishes a new Working Group on Climate-Resilient International Development within the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Within two years, the Working Group is to, among other tasks: establish guidelines for integrating consideration of climate change risks and climate resilience into the funding decisions of all agencies with direct international development programs; develop an assessment process for agencies to use to assess climate risk; and identify “approaches for adjusting” the agencies’ programs and funding decisions to address the findings in these climate-risk assessments.
The Executive Order further instructs agencies with direct international development programs and investments to conduct the assessments developed by the Working Group, adjust their programs and funding decisions as appropriate, and support efforts of vulnerable counties to integrate climate-resilience. Similarly, agencies that participate in multilateral entities or that have representation within multilateral development entities (including development banks and United Nations organizations) must, “as appropriate,” work to encourage these entities to adopt the same types of measures. Finally, the Executive Order requires the National Security Council to convene an agency meeting to explore further mitigation opportunities in US international development work within one year of the Order.
In many ways, this Order builds off of Executive Order 13653, which established the Climate Preparedness and Resilience Council and required a broad-based agency assessment of climate impacts on their operations. The current order, however, provides a more structured and specific plan for international development agencies, and will likely trigger a slew of agency guidelines, policy determinations, and regulations as agencies integrate the Working Group’s recommendations into their operations over the coming years, providing a number of new challenges and opportunities for those participating in international development funding.