In January, President Biden released Executive Order (EO) 14008 directing major federal agencies to develop adaptation and resilience plans to address their most significant climate risks and vulnerabilities. On October 7, 2021, the White House announced the release of more than 20 federal agency climate adaptation and resilience plans. Among the agencies releasing plans was the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In conjunction with EO 14008, HHS released a statement of policy "to build the evidence base for climate change mitigation and adaptation actions that promote health, implement equitable intentions to reduce the health impacts of worsening climate; promote climate actions across all sectors that reduce existing environmental health risks and health disparities; and enhance the sustainability and resilience of the health sector in the United States." HHS announced that it will develop an agency-wide initiative to integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation into its programs and management functions.
To accomplish its goal, HHS states that it will work to reduce its own carbon emissions and ensure that its procurements and grants support sustainable and climate-resilient products, services, and supply chains. Additionally, HHS will ensure that its management and staff are familiar with the health implications of climate change so that the department will be prepared to sustain operations in the face of extreme weather events and other climate change-related threats.
Noting that existing health disparities are likely to be exacerbated by the climate crisis. HHS said it is committed to protecting the health of all Americans by integrating environmental justice and equity into the work of the agency.
In the climate action plan, HHS identified five priorities for climate adaptation and climate resilience:
1. Climate Adaptation by expanding existing climate change-related public health and biomedical research activities;
2. Improve HHS Responses to the Climate Crisis by improving HHS preparedness and responses through a consultative planning process;
3. Develop Climate-Resilient Grant Policies at HHS by developing language across the range of HHS grant-making programs and funding announcements to advance federal sustainability and climate resilience goals;
4. Climate Resilience by Optimizing Workforce and Operational Footprint through Space Management by assessing workforce needs, owned and leased space amenities, and work activities in order to recalibrate the agency's space strategy to improve workforce experience;
5. Promoting Sustainable and Climate Resilient Operations at HHS Facilities by updating HHS facilities' policy manuals and guidance documents to address sustainability and climate resilience.
In announcing the new climate change policies, Xavier Becerra, Secretary of HHS said, "HHS is proud that the United States is becoming re-established as a global leader on climate action, and we look forward to helping make the world safer, healthier, and more productive for the present and future generations."