The president himself took the lead role in forging ahead and taking action to avert the worst effects of climate change last week, presiding over the fourth and final meeting of the 26-member White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.
The president on July 16 announced a series of new climate change resilience initiatives, including making new investments to fortify community electric grids, build stronger man-made and natural coastal storm defenses, and protect water supplies, as well as enhance climate change and infrastructure data gathering, analysis and planning via 3-D GIS mapping initiatives.
Following up on the president’s announcement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced the administration is dedicating nearly $10 million to help American Indian tribes enhance their resilience to climate change through adaptation and mitigation initiatives.
The Tribal Climate Resilience Program should be a win-win-win situation, benefiting American Indian tribes and the nation economically, socially and environmentally.
Enhancing climate resilience in Native American communities
The Tribal Climate Resilience Program will provide federal funding for tribes, tribal consortia and organizations to develop science-based information and tools for adaptive resource management, as well as craft climate resilience strategies.
Supporting such efforts, the program also entails carrying out nationwide climate adaptation planning sessions and providing funding for tribal engagement and outreach with other groups regionally and nationally.
Speaking to the threat and costs of rapid climate change, Secretary Jewell said:
“From the Everglades to the Great Lakes to Alaska and everywhere in between, climate change is a leading threat to natural and cultural resources across America, and tribal communities are often the hardest hit by severe weather events such as droughts, floods and wildfires. Building on the President’s commitment to tribal leaders, the partnership announced today will help tribal nations prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change on their land and natural resources.”
To further assist tribes create and carry out climate mitigation and adaptation plans, the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will join in creating a sub-group within the White House Council on Native American Affairs that will share data and information, as well as coordinate administration efforts with tribal leaders and groups.
Native Americans, climate mitigation and adaptation
Native Americans, with support from the federal government, are increasingly turning to renewable energy and energy efficiency in a bid to realize the untapped human, as well as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal, energy and resource potential that resides on Native American tribal lands.
In addition to providing much-needed access to clean, reliable and cost-effective sources of water and electricity, kick-starting development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects on Native American tribal lands can provide a boost in terms of creating jobs and economic opportunity.
Furthermore, they are in tune with traditional Native American values, beliefs and attitudes towards nature and the physical environment, as they are with the broader, modern day societal trends that underpin calls for greater corporate sustainability, social responsibility and environmental justice.
“Our language, our song, our cultural traditions are based on the Sun, the winds, the Earth and its waters,” Henry Red Cloud, a pioneering Native American renewable energy advocate and founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, said in a 2013 interview with 3p.
Commenting on the president’s Tribal Climate Resilience Program, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated:
“Tribes are at the forefront of many climate issues, so we are excited to work in a more cross-cutting way to help address tribal climate needs. We’ve heard from tribal leaders loud and clear: when the federal family combines its efforts, we get better results – and nowhere are these results needed more than in the fight against climate change.”
*Image credits: 1) WhiteHouse.gov; 2) Emerson Kent.com