Thursday, September 18th, 2014

The Obameter

Fund proposals to help fish and game survive climate change


Supports proposals "to devote billions of dollars annually to state game and fish agencies and federal land management agencies to help them ensure that fish and wildlife survive the impacts of climate change."


Updates

Not as much money as promised for climate change programs

During his campaign, Obama promised to help fish and wildlife survive the impacts of climate change with billions of dollars in funding.

The billion dollar promise was based on a piece of failed legislation called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 -- also known as the cap and trade bill.

This bill would have done just what the name suggests, cap greenhouse gas emissions and then allow groups to buy and sell emissions permits. The goal was to use a market-based mechanism to lower overall emissions by gradually reducing the cap.

The bill included a financing component that would have distributed funding to various climate change programs.

While Obama pushed for the inclusion of  a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund in the climate change legislation, never passed.

But Obama has included funding in his yearly budgets that aims to accomplish similar goals, and yearly budgets show that climate change funding has increased during this administration.

Most recently, the 2012 budget provides $2.6 billion to the multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program which is a 5.6 percent increase from last year.

The administration has also invested $320 million in programs under the U.S. Interior Department to address climate change.

We spoke with Taryn Tuss, communications director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality who said these programs focus on creating "climate change adaptation strategies, improving climate-related science and monitoring of natural resources, and conserving and restoring vital landscapes.”  

In addition, she pointed us to a government-wide initiative to "incorporate adaptation into agency planning and risk assessment, with the goal of protecting infrastructure and other taxpayer investments, natural resources, and public health.”

The only realistic way for Obama to secure billions for fish and game would have been through the passage of the cap and trade bill. While cap and trade didn't pass, the administration has supported the goals initially outlined in the promise by supporting agencies that run climate change programs. We rate this a Compromise.

Sources:

EOP, Meeting the Challenges of Global Change, accessed Oct. 18, 2012

The White House, The U.S. Global Change Research Program in the 2012 Budget, Oct. 8, 2012

The White House, Federal Actions for a Climate Resilient Nation, accessed Oct. 8, 2012

Interview with Naomi Edelson, director of state and federal wildlife partnerships, National Wildlife Federation, Oct. 9 2012

Interview with Taryn Tuss, communications director, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Oct. 17 2012

Govtrack, HR 2454

Climate Science Watch, President"s 2013 Budget Requests 6% for climate and global change research, Feb. 14, 2012

No cap-and-trade revenue in sight for funding climate change adaptation

As a candidate, Barack Obama promised "to devote billions" to help fish and wildlife adapt to climate change. But so far, it's only been millions. And the prospect for more money is looking bleak.

In FY 2009, the Interior Department's budget devoted about $45 million to dealing with climate change, almost tripling the amount to $135.9 million in the next fiscal year. President Obama has requested even more, $171.3 million, for FY 2011.

The big difficulty for Obama is the fate of the cap-and-trade bill, which has stalled in Congress. Bruce Stein, the director of climate change adaptation for the National Wildlife Federation, said the billions to help fight the effects of climate change was tied not to the regular appropriations process, but to hoped-for passage of a comprehensive climate bill that would address both mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change.

Mitigation responses tend to garner the most attention, Stein said. They involve steps like reducing greenhouse gases. Adaptation responses, on which this promises focuses, deal with how to prepare for and cope with the effects of climate change. This includes providing paths for marshes to move inland as sea levels rise, creating north-south corridors for wildlife movement, and generating long-term plans for the mix of trees replanted after forest fires -- actions designed to help fish and wildlife survive changes already underway.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, better known as the cap-and-trade bill, would have included both types of responses, Stein said, by capping greenhouse gas emissions and putting revenue from auctioning off pollution credits toward climate change adaptation. This, then, was to have been the source of the billions Obama promised.

The bill passed the House of Representatives in June 2009 but stalled in the Senate later that year. Stein said it is highly unlikely a similar bill would pass through the 112th Congress.

"The main vehicle for both the policy and the funding was the cap-and-trade bill, and that languished,” said JP Leous, the climate change policy advisor for The Wilderness Society.

"It would've been a game-changer” that provided "magnitudes more funding,” said Mark Humpert, the director of Teaming with Wildlife Coalition, which includes state fish and wildlife agencies and other individuals and groups concerned with wildlife conservation.

Steve Thompson, executive director of the non-profit conservation group The Cinnabar Foundation, said there has been progress on this issue but that it is more a shift in attitude and priorities than funding.

Agencies "weren't even allowed to talk about climate change during the Bush administration,” he said.

But the Obama administration has made some progress through the agencies it controls.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, created by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's order in February 2010, are one example of the change in approach toward climate change from the previous administration, Humpert said. The cooperatives aim to put the best models of climate change to use in fighting the its effects in specific areas of the country, said Jonathan Ambrose, of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They also propose to foster collaboration between federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The Department of the Interior also has created eight Climate Science Centers to funnel information to the conservation cooperatives by, among other efforts, downscaling global models and offering more detailed analyses for adaptation planning on a regional level.

Much of this work -- and the work that was proposed to be funded by the cap-and-trade bill -- benefits people as well as wildlife, Leous said, because climate restoration projects ensure the healthy ecosystems humans need for agriculture, industrial water systems and outdoor recreation.

But the progress in and by the agencies falls far short of Obama's promise. Though Stein and others noted there has been a "sea change in the culture of the federal bureaucracy,” it looks unlikely that any bill providing billions of dollars in funding for climate change adaptation will pass both chambers of the 112th Congress, so we"re moving this promise from In The Works to Stalled.

Sources:

Interview with Steve Thompson, executive director of The Cinnabar Foundation

Interview with Bruce Stein, director of climate change adaptation for the National Wildlife Federation

Interview with Jonathan Ambrose, assistant chief of the Nongame Conservation Section of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Interview with Mark Humpert, director of Teaming with Wildlife within the Association of Fishing and Wildlife Agencies

Interview with JP Leous, climate change policy advisor for The Wilderness Society

E-mail interview with Hannah August, in the White House Office of Media Affairs

Department of the Interior budget documents for FY 2010 and 2011

Cap-and-trade revenue could help preserve fish, wildlife

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama said his plan to slow climate change would include money to sustain fish and wildlife from its harmful effects.
 
To meet this goal, the U.S. House of Representatives included a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund in its version of a bill that would allow businesses to buy pollution permits from the government. About 4.3 percent of the revenue would go to the fund, and it would be distributed annually to the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Army Corps of Engineers and other government entities to pay for species conservation. (Wildlife conservation advocates, like William Geer with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, say 5 percent of the revenue would be sufficient.)
 
In the Senate, Sens. Max Baucus, Jeff Bingaman, and Sheldon Whitehouse have introduced a bill that would set up such a fund. But the legislation provides no funding mechanism like the House cap-and-trade bill.
 
So, there's an effort afoot to help fish and game survive the impact of climate change. But so far, the legislation is still being debated by Congress. We'll keep our eyes on this promise and move it to In the Works for now.

Sources:

The Energy and Commerce Committee, section by section summary of HR 2454 , accessed Dec. 21, 2009
 
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Bingaman, Whitehouse, Baucus Aim To Help Natural Resources Adapt to Climate Change , accessed Dec. 21, 2009