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Addressing Climate Change

The climate crisis threatens homeland security in the United States. Extreme weather events and sea-level rise challenge the Nation’s preparedness and resilience.

The Department of Homeland Security is implementing a new approach to meet the crisis, one designed to protect homeland security by promoting resilience and adaptation, as well as reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions.

An informed nation is a resilient nation, and a prepared nation is a safe nation. DHS is working to inform the American people about climate-related risks, including extreme heat, flooding, wildfire, and drought, and to provide them with clear information about how to reduce those risks. Emergency response is also a DHS priority. The Department seeks not only to respond to disasters, but also to empower American communities to prevent them before they occur. It is promoting technological innovation, and providing state, local, and tribal governments with the resources and capacity they need to be safer and more resilient.

In addition, DHS has a significant regulatory role, and it is using that role to make the United States less vulnerable to climate-related risks. It is vigorously enforcing America’s trade laws to keep illegal pollutants out of our Nation. The Department is also working to protect its own personnel and property against climate risks, and it is sharing evidence and best practices with the American people and partners across the Nation to promote change at all levels of government and in the private sector as well.

In the following video, Secretary Mayorkas announced Department commitments to address the climate emergency at the White House Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22, 2021.

 

Addressing the climate emergency is a priority for DHS as sea-level rise, extreme weather events, workforce health risks, and other direct and indirect impacts of climate change affect the Nation’s preparedness and national security. The Department is taking high impact actions to enhance resilience, reduce carbon emissions, and build a safer Nation.

1. DHS is increasing investments in climate adaptation to support community resilience.

Description: Each year, the Department provides billions of dollars in grants to state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions that are used for training, exercises, planning, personnel, equipment, and projects to prepare for many threats and hazards. Through these investments, DHS is committed to increasing its focus on climate adaptation to enable communities to build resilience to the effects of climate change, such as inland flooding or low water, severe weather, unpredicted temperature changes, and drought.

Outcome: Communities have the resources they need to build resilience and proactively adapt to and thrive in a changing climate, thus reducing the need for Federal disaster response and recovery assistance.

2. DHS is promoting building standards and practices that account for climate change.

Description: In order to position the nation’s communities and its infrastructure to meet the expected demands of a changing climate, DHS is working to incorporate climate change adaptation measures and incentives into building codes and standards. This includes publishing the notice of proposed rulemaking for the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). The FFRMS was reinstated in January 2021 and requires agencies to protect federally funded buildings and projects from flood risks. Additionally, DHS is leading the implementation of the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes, through the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MitFLG), an interagency coordination body led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Outcome: An increased number of communities are integrating climate change adaptation measures into local planning and development practices.

3. DHS is improving the provisioning of risk information to equip decision makers with reliable and accurate risk information as the climate changes.

Description: Changes in the climate are affecting the accuracy and practice of using historical records to predict the magnitude, location, and frequency of future hazards. To improve the reliability and availability of risk data, DHS is initiating pilot programs and studies to identify areas where risk data and information can be updated more frequently to better account for future impacts. An initial area of focus for the Department, through FEMA, is updating the National Risk Index to account for the projected impacts of climate change.   

Outcome: The risk information provided by DHS will enhance resilience by allowing local community planners to model and assess future risk, identify potential adaptation and mitigation measures including nature-based solutions, and assess the estimated benefits from those targeted projects and actions toward lowering their overall risk to climate driven emergencies.

4. DHS is co-leading U.S. Government enforcement efforts under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM Act) to keep illegally imported hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) out of our economy.

Description: The AIM Act directs an 85% phasedown of U.S. production and consumption of HFCs, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, by 2036. DHS co-chairs the Interagency Task Force on Illegal HFC Trade established to help implement and enforce the AIM Act.

Outcome: Successful implementation of the AIM Act is expected to reduce total emissions by 4.6 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e) by 2050, nearly equal to three years of U.S. power sector emissions at 2019 levels. The value of successful implementation’s cumulative net benefits is estimated at $272 billion. Enforcement is key to achieving these goals.

CBP and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Enforcement actions in FY2022 alone prevented illegal HFC shipments equivalent to more than 889,000 MTCO2e from entering the border. The Interagency Task Force expects that enforcement actions will ramp up further in 2024 as the production and consumption phasedown accelerates from 90% of historical levels to 60%.

5. DHS is enhancing its ability to respond to emergent events, including those exacerbated by climate change, by establishing Department-wide incident management capabilities that could support the interagency response when called upon.

Description: As the risks to the Nation become more complex and diverse, DHS has increasingly been called upon to help manage incidents that fall outside of the Stafford Act or where no well understood or preexisting coordination mechanism exists. Examples include the Russia-Ukraine Domestic Preparedness and Response Unified Coordination Group, Operation Allies Welcome, the response to COVID-19 (both before the Stafford Act declarations and for non-Stafford activities after the declarations), and the consequences of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. These incidents demonstrate the need to build and institutionalize operational capabilities that are flexible and can be deployed or pre-positioned in support of a range of incidents impacting the Homeland.

Outcome: The Department has a flexible workforce that is aware of the implications of climate change and future risks and can respond to a variety of future disasters. Resources are distributed appropriately based on new threats and hazards.

6. DHS is providing guidance on the impacts of climate change on National Critical Functions (NCFs).

Description: Private critical infrastructure owners need to account for climate change’s direct and indirect impacts across all their operations, especially those that provide critical services to the public. Effective engagement with the private sector should account for any gaps in knowledge on how the DHS climate change strategy is critical to national resilience.   

Outcome: Critical infrastructure owners will have better informed Environmental, Social, and Governance direction and investment, enhancing resilience to the impacts of climate change. 

7. DHS is leveraging scientific competitions and innovation challenges to build climate resilience via its second Innovation Prize Challenge.

Description: Clean Power for Hours, DHS’ second Innovation Prize Challenge, was announced for Earth Day 2023. This challenge, also sponsored by the Department of Energy, is designed to identify and catalyze existing, innovative technologies that can support continuity of National Critical Function facility operations and allow small scale essential service providers to remain operable during power failures or disruptions lasting longer than 36 hours.

Outcome: Development of behind-the-meter clean energy storage solutions at Technical Readiness Level 6 (i.e., system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment) or higher is incentivized.

8. DHS is establishing partnerships with other agencies, organizations, and communities who are impacted by climate change.

Description: DHS is establishing partnerships in the climate scientific community, such as the United States Global Change Research Program, to enhance our awareness of the projected effects of climate change. DHS is also partnering with Historically Black College and Universities and other external stakeholders vulnerable to climate change to build greater knowledge of climate change impacts, mitigation measures that communities are taking, and areas where federal support is needed.

Outcome: Through improved engagement with front line communities, the Department can better understand and direct resourcing needs in areas such as grant funding, risk and modeling tools, and key research and development opportunities. Communities will ultimately have improved access to higher quality information on risks to inform preparedness and mitigation for future climate disasters. 

9. DHS is leading by example to invest in a sustainable and resilient Department.

Description: DHS has set a goal of transitioning 50% of its vehicle fleet to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2030. Some components have their own internal goals; TSA expects to have transitioned its entire fleet by 2035, while the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) intends to achieve 50% light duty vehicle electrification within 10 years.   

Outcome: Department-wide ZEV acquisition planned in FY2023 is estimated to achieve 3,768 short tons (3,418 metric tons) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions over the life cycles of the vehicles. The DHS Fleet Electrification Program Management Office is working to develop a GHG emissions reduction estimate for the overall goal of 50% electrification by 2030.

10. DHS is providing our workforce with the tools and guidance it needs to operate in a changing environment.

Description: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is deploying heat mitigation kits to U.S. Border Patrol personnel to reduce the risks extreme temperatures pose to personnel and irregular migrants. This program is currently active in two sectors and is being expanded to all other sectors in time for the 2023 heat season.

Outcome: Kits will provide an initial response to lessen extreme heat effects experienced by the DHS workforce and irregular migrants. This allows additional time for a more robust emergency response and may ultimately save lives across more sectors as deployment increases.

11. DHS is pursuing energy resilience at its facilities.

Description: The USCG is constructing its first renewable energy microgrid at Training Center Petaluma, CA to provide energy resilience to the entire site. The microgrid hardens Training Center Petaluma against multiple environmental threats prevalent in Northern California, such as high winds, wildfires, floods, drought, and earthquakes. 

Outcome: This project brings online utility-scale battery energy storage that is charged with solar energy to ensure a "safe haven" for nearly 1,400 active duty, reserve, civilian employees, and their dependents. Construction is ongoing with a ribbon cutting anticipated in 2024.

12. DHS is strengthening tools and processes to mobilize and deploy personnel in response to catastrophic weather events.

Description: The USCG Reserve, the Service’s contingency surge force, is working to streamline personnel mobilization. The USCG Reserve created a personnel dashboard to quickly identify personnel with specific skills, training, and readiness status.

Outcome: The personnel dashboard will facilitate rapid mobilization and deployment of personnel with specific skills, training, and readiness status to respond to catastrophic weather events.

DHS is at the forefront of national initiatives to address the impacts of climate change. DHS’ Strategic Framework for Addressing Climate Change, its Climate Action Plan, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Climate Framework, outline strategic priorities and lines of effort to combat the climate crisis and promote a safe and resilient nation.

FEMA received Inflation Reduction Act funds to make grants for low-carbon materials used in disaster recovery and climate resilience projects available to communities across the United States. You can learn more at the links below.

Launched in June 2022, CBP’s Green Trade Strategy governs the agency’s efforts to combat climate change in the context of the trade mission and provides a framework to incentivize green trade, strengthen CBP’s environmental enforcement posture, accelerate green innovation, and improve climate resilience and resource efficiency. The Strategy establishes a proactive model to combat the negative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on the agency’s trade mission while strengthening existing enforcement activities against environmental trade crimes including illegal loggingwildlife traffickingillegal, unreported, and unregulated fishingillegal mining; and other violations of environmental laws and regulations. It also defines goals for environmentally sustainable trade policies, programs, and infrastructure within the agency.

DHS is investing in a sustainable, resilient department as climate change poses new mission challenges. For example, in 2022 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) became the first federal agency to debut a battery electric vehicle (EV) fitted for performing law enforcement functions at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers’ Office of Cheltenham Operations. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is the first of a variety of EVs DHS plans to field across its varied law enforcement missions throughout the homeland.

Partnerships constitute the foundation for securing the homeland. Preparedness for and resilience to catastrophic events requires the Department to collaborate with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and our brave local first responders. DHS work with the public must also:

  • Address the disproportionately high and adverse climate-related impacts disasters have on disadvantaged communities;
  • Reduce unnecessary barriers to participation and effectiveness;
  • Increase equity; and
  • Promote preparedness and resilience at the individual level.

Additional Information

The DHS Climate Change Action Group is a coordinating body comprised of the Department’s senior leadership that drives urgent action to address the climate crisis and reports directly to the Secretary.

Last Updated: 02/09/2024
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