May 14, 2010

On Adaptation, Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Largely Similar to ACES, But Drops Several Provisions and Provides Less Money

Though in many respects similar to provisions in the House-approved American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) bill and the prior Boxer-Kerry bill in the Senate, the adaptation program proposed in the newly released Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act substantially decreases funding for federal and state adaptation programs and eliminates provisions establishing a public health adaptation program. 

Like its predecessors, Kerry-Lieberman’s adaptation program, included in large part in Title IV, §§6001-6011, incorporates a number of provision focused on managing the effects of climate change on natural resources in the United States:

  1. a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Panel, headed by the chair of the CEQ and including the heads of federal public land and natural resource agencies, to develop and implement a National Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
  2. data gathering on adaptation to be coordinated between NOAA’s National Climate Service, a National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center created in USGS, and a Science Advisory Board
  3. adaptation plans for each federal natural resource agency, to be approved by the President, implementing and consistent with the National Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
  4. state natural resources adaptation plans, required for the state to be eligible for federal funding, reviewed and approved by the Secretary of the Interior
  5. a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Account
  6. a National Wildlife Habitat and Corridors Information Program to develop a national geographic information system database on fish and wildlife habitat and corridors.

Though these adaptation provisions may be an improvement over the status quo, they nonetheless retain many of the same key weaknesses as those in ACES and Boxer-Kerry that I and others have detailed here and here. In addition, Kerry-Lieberman eliminates a number of significant provisions adopted in ACES. These include:

  1. detailed language creating a public health adaptation program, including a national strategic action plan, advisory board, and periodic reports to prepare for and manage the effects of climate change on public health
  2. in-depth provisions authorizing comprehensive coordinated research and outreach programs on global change
  3. authorizing language establishing a National Climate Service in NOAA (though this may be because NOAA has already begun to institute an internal reorganization that includes creating a National Climate Service)
  4. detailed language divvying allocations of allowances among states and Indian tribes, limiting use of allocations to particular purposes, and itemizing what must be included in state adaptation plans.

Kerry-Lieberman also eliminates detailed language originally included in the Kerry-Boxer bill that authorize several new domestic programs for addressing specific climate change threats: (1) a research program to assist utilities in adapting to the effects of climate change on drinking water; (2) a water system partnership program to provide funds to States for water system adaptation projects; (3) a program to provide funds to States for flood control, protection, prevention and response projects; (4) a program to minimize increased risks from wildfires; and (5) funding for coastal and Great Lakes states to prepare for the effects of climate change on coastal resources. 

Kerry-Lieberman does, however, appear to provide NOAA discretion to create water system, flood control, wildfire and coastal area programs (though it is unclear to me why NOAA would be the appropriate entity to create such programs).

Perhaps most worrying about the Kerry-Lieberman bill, however, is the proposed reduction in funds for domestic natural resource adaptation activities. Rather than increasing the amount of funding set aside for adaptation efforts, as many have been calling for, Kerry-Lieberman proposes less funding. Adaptation efforts would not even begin to receive funding until 2019, and even then domestic adaptation activities combined would only be allocated 0.75% of allowances (1.5% divided equally with international adaptation efforts).  Adaptation funding would slowly increase as a percentage until 2030, when domestic adaptation funding would peak at 3% of total allowances.  In contrast, ACES would begin domestic adaptation funding in 2012 at 1% and steadily increase such allocations to 4% by 2027. As a result, even the modest adaptation programs authorized by the bill very well may fail to provide sufficient support to state and federal agencies and private parties seeking to prepare and manage the approaching effects of climate change in the United States and worldwide.

Alejandro Camacho, CPR Member Scholar; Assoc. Prof., Notre Dame Law, Visiting Prof., UC Irvine School of Law. Bio.

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