Vermont officials attend final meeting of the White House’s task force on climate preparedness

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Vermont officials attend final meeting of the White House’s task force on climate preparedness

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 3:35pm -- tim

Governor Peter Shumlin and key members of his administration attended on Wednesday the fourth and final meeting in Washington, DC, of the White House’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, bringing lessons learned during 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene to the national panel charged with recommending federal actions to help states and communities recover and rebuild smarter from natural disasters.

“Tropical Storm Irene wiped out roads and bridges, utility and telephone service, and homes and businesses in impacted areas of the state. Vermont learned the hard way the we needed to rebuild in a way that minimizes the impact of future storms – and we know, given the scientific certainty of climate change, that we will have more storm,” said Shumlin, who attended the meeting with Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz and Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter. “Now we are pleased to share our hard-learned lessons with other states, and are committed to working with our federal partners to make us even stronger.”

The Task Force, made up of 26 officials from across the country, was created last November to advise President Obama on how the federal government can best respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. They will provide their final recommendations to the President in the fall.

“States and communities across the country are experiencing climate impacts like drought, fires, extreme weather, tornadoes, storm surge, sea level rise and floods that remind us that we must redouble our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and continue to invest in the green energy economy,” the Governor said. “I appreciate the President’s commitment to this work.”

"It is sobering to meet with leaders from across the country and hear how climate change is affecting communities with sea level rise, severe storms, flooding and drought,” said Deputy Secretary Minter. “Yet it is also inspiring to see the determination of our President and his Cabinet to address the challenge. Vermont's strong recovery from Irene helps us share lessons learned with others and helps position us for a more resilient future."

President Obama announced at the meeting new federal initiatives that can help Vermont with planning and building resilient infrastructure, assisting communities to better prepare for future storms, updating the maps and information that improve our understanding of future vulnerabilities, and guiding our growth and development to better protect against future hazards.

Among the initiatives announced:

•         New details on the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which makes nearly $1 billion available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years.  This competition will create replicable models of modern disaster recovery that apply science-based and forward-looking risk analysis to address recovery and resilience needs.  The competition will also help communities create and implement disaster recovery plans that will make them better prepared for future extreme weather events and other shocks.

•         Developing advanced mapping data and tools. The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey and other Federal agencies today launched a $13.1 million 3-D Elevation Program partnership designed to bring Federal agencies, academia, corporate entities, states, tribes, and communities together to develop advanced 3-dimensional mapping data of the United States.  These data and related tools will be used in the areas of flood risk management, water resource planning, mitigation of coastal erosion and storm surge impacts, and identification of landslide hazards as an essential component of supporting action on climate resilience.

•         Establishing a Mitigation Integration Task Force to help communities build back stronger and safer in the face of new risks. Working with State, tribal, local, and eligible private non-profit partners, FEMA will identify pilot projects in current and emerging disasters where there are specific opportunities to make investments that result in a more resilient outcome than using a single funding source and program. This is part of FEMA’s goal of breaking the cycle of disasters -- saving lives, protecting property, reducing losses, and allowing individuals and communities to recover more quickly after a disaster.

•         To ensuring that States are preparing for the impacts of climate change, FEMA will release new guidance for State Hazard Mitigation Plans that calls upon States to consider climate variability as part of their requirement to address the probability of future events in state planning efforts. Last issued in 2008, FEMA’s guidance for these plans helps States prepare in advance of a disaster to identify and drive actions for more resilient and sustainable recovery, such as elevating or relocating homes and businesses to reduce flood risks associated with sea-level rise and more intense storms or rebuilding to higher standards.

•         Improving stormwater management. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today launched a Green Infrastructure Collaborative among government agencies, NGOs, and other private sector entities to advance green stormwater infrastructure.  Green infrastructure, such as urban forests and rooftop gardens, can be used as an important tool for building resilience to climate change impacts such as increased precipitation and heat island effects. Federal agencies will provide funding assistance in at least 25 communities across the country for green infrastructure projects, technical assistance to create integrated green stormwater management and hazard mitigation plans, and recognition and awards programs for innovative green infrastructure projects.

•         Assessing climate-related health hazards. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released a new guide, “Assessing Health Vulnerability to Climate Change,” to help public health departments assess local vulnerabilities to health hazards associated with climate change. The assessments will help inform targeted public health actions to reduce the health impacts of climate change.

Source: Governor's office 7.16.2014