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Highlights

The Congress has required the administration to report annually on federal spending on climate change. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reports funding in four categories: technology (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), science (to better understand the climate), international assistance (to help developing countries), and tax expenditures (to encourage reductions in emissions). The Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which coordinates many agencies' activities, reports only on science. To measure funding, OMB and CCSP use budget authority, the authority provided in law to enter into financial obligations that will result in government outlays. GAO was asked to examine federal climate change funding for 1993 through 2004, as reported by both agencies, including (1) how total funding and funding by category changed and whether funding data are comparable over time and (2) how funding by agency changed and whether funding data are comparable over time.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Other To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB and CCSP should from year-to-year, each use the same format for presenting data, to the extent that they may do so and remain in compliance with reporting requirements.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) should, from year-to-year, use the same format for presenting data to the extent that they may do so and remain in compliance with reporting requirements. Funding data tables in CCSP's subsequent Our Changing Planet reports (November 2006, October 2007, July 2008) have used the same format to present funding data.
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB and CCSP should from year-to-year, each use the same format for presenting data, to the extent that they may do so and remain in compliance with reporting requirements.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that OMB should, from year-to-year, use the same format for presenting data to the extent that they may do so and remain in compliance with reporting requirements. In its April 2006 report to Congress entitled, "Federal Climate Change Expenditures," OMB explicitly acknowledged GAO's recommendation and noted that "this report keeps the same structures, categories, definitions and format as in past years." OMB's May 2007 report to Congress similarly follows the same format.
Other To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB and CCSP should explain changes in report content or format when they are introduced.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) should explain changes in report content or format when they are introduced. Funding data tables in CCSP's subsequent Our Changing Planet reports (November 2006, October 2007, July 2008) have used the same format to present funding data. Changes from prior years are described in footnotes.
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB and CCSP should explain changes in report content or format when they are introduced.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that OMB should explain changes in report content or format when they are introduced. In its April 2006 report to Congress entitled, "Federal Climate Change Expenditures," OMB explicitly acknowledged GAO's recommendation and included a section of the report entitled "1.3 Reporting Changes." In this report, OMB noted that "where appropriate, reporting changes have been footnoted." OMB's May 2007 report to Congress similarly noted changes in report content and format in footnotes.
Other To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB and CCSP should provide and maintain a crosswalk comparing new and old report structures when changes in report format are introduced.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) should provide and maintain a crosswalk comparing new and old report structures when changes in report format are introduced. Funding data tables in CCSP's subsequent Our Changing Planet reports (November 2006, October 2007, July 2008) have used the same format to present funding data. Changes are described in footnotes.
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB and CCSP should provide and maintain a crosswalk comparing new and old report structures when changes in report format are introduced.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that OMB should provide and maintain a crosswalk comparing new and old report structures when changes in report format are introduced. In Appendix B of its April 2006 report to Congress entitled, "Federal Climate Change Expenditures," OMB explicitly acknowledged GAO's recommendation and noted that "to address GAO's recommendations, reporting changes have been noted in table footnotes throughout this report and a summary table of climate funding from 2003 through 2007 has been provided." OMB's May 2007 report to Congress provides a similar Appendix B that summarizes changes from 2003 through 2008.
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB should include information on existing climate-related tax expenditures in its reports.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2005, GAO recommended that OMB include information on existing climate-related tax expenditures in its reports. In its April 2006 report to Congress entitled, "Federal Climate Change Expenditures," OMB explicitly acknowledged GAO's recommendation and noted that "this report now includes existing tax expenditures that could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB should use the same criteria for determining which tax expenditures to include as it uses for determining which accounts to include.
Closed - Implemented
OMB issued its 2007 Federal Climate Change Expenditure Report to Congress in April of 2006. Based in part upon our work, OMB implemented GAO's recommendation by using consistent selection criteria to identify which expenditures and accounts to include in its report.
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB should request that the Congress clarify whether future reports should be presented in terms of expenditures and obligations or in terms of budget authority, and if the Congress prefers the former, OMB should request the necessary time to prepare reports on that basis.
Closed - Implemented
On November 2, 2005, the Conference Report on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs appropriations act (H. Rept. 109-265) cited GAO's report and required OMB to report using budget authority, obligations, and expenditures. In April of 2006, OMB issued its 2007 Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report to the Congress. The report addresses GAO's recommendations and the associated Congressional requirement regarding budget metrics. Specifically, OMB clearly labels data throughout the report with respect to the budget metrics presented (e.g., FY 2005 actual budget authority, FY 2006 enacted budget authority, FY 2006 obligations, FY 2006 Outlays, and FY 2007 Proposed Budget Authority), and reporting changes have been footnoted.
Office of Management and Budget To better ensure that the Congress and the public can consistently track federal climate change funding or spending over time, OMB should, if it continues to report budget authority rather than expenditures and obligations, clearly identify the information reported as budget authority throughout the report.
Closed - Implemented
On November 2, 2005, the Conference Report on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs appropriations act (H. Rept. 109-265) cited GAO's report and required OMB to report using budget authority, obligations, and expenditures. In April of 2006, OMB issued its 2007 Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report to the Congress. The report addresses GAO's recommendations and the associated Congressional requirement regarding budget metrics. Specifically, OMB clearly labels data throughout the report with respect to the budget metrics presented (e.g., FY 2005 actual budget authority, FY 2006 enacted budget authority, FY 2006 obligations, FY 2006 Outlays, and FY 2007 Proposed Budget Authority), and reporting changes have been footnoted.

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