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Highlights

Climate change poses risks to many environmental and economic systems, including agriculture, infrastructure, and ecosystems. Federal law has periodically required the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report on federal climate change funding. GAO was asked to examine (1) federal funding for climate change activities and how these activities are organized; (2) the extent to which methods for defining and reporting climate change funding are interpreted consistently across the federal government; (3) federal climate change strategic priorities, and the extent to which funding is aligned with these priorities; and (4) what options, if any, are available to better align federal climate change funding with strategic priorities. GAO analyzed OMB funding reports and responses to a Web-based questionnaire sent to federal officials, reviewed available literature, and interviewed stakeholders.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Science and Technology Policy 1. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to clearly establish federal strategic climate change priorities, including the roles and responsibilities of the key federal entities, taking into consideration the full range of activities within the federal climate change enterprise.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to GAO's 2015 high-risk update, the federal government has recently initiated many climate-related strategic planning activities. Specifically, the President's June 2013 Climate Action Plan and November 2013 Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change show how federal agencies have made some progress on better organizing across agencies, within agencies, and among different levels of government. In response to this executive order, agencies created climate change adaptation plans that outline steps they will take to, for example, factor resilience to the effects of climate change into grant-making and investment decisions, and into the design and construction of new and existing agency facilities and infrastructure. Agencies completed their first adaptation plans in 2012 and updated the plans in October 2014. These and other federal efforts identify climate change as a priority and demonstrate commitment and top leadership support. While agencies have begun to take specific actions, most have yet to implement aspects of these plans or sustained momentum over time. It is also unclear how the various planning efforts relate to each other or what they amount to as a government-wide approach for reducing federal fiscal exposures. Further, existing strategic planning efforts generally do not address the roles, responsibilities, and working relationships among federal, state, and local entities; identify how such efforts will be funded and staffed over time; or establish mechanisms to track and monitor progress. Hence, the federal government cannot demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures.
Council on Environmental Quality 2. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to clearly establish federal strategic climate change priorities, including the roles and responsibilities of the key federal entities, taking into consideration the full range of activities within the federal climate change enterprise.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to GAO's 2015 high-risk update, the federal government has recently initiated many climate-related strategic planning activities. Specifically, the President's June 2013 Climate Action Plan and November 2013 Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change show how federal agencies have made some progress on better organizing across agencies, within agencies, and among different levels of government. In response to this executive order, agencies created climate change adaptation plans that outline steps they will take to, for example, factor resilience to the effects of climate change into grant-making and investment decisions, and into the design and construction of new and existing agency facilities and infrastructure. Agencies completed their first adaptation plans in 2012 and updated the plans in October 2014. These and other federal efforts identify climate change as a priority and demonstrate commitment and top leadership support. While agencies have begun to take specific actions, most have yet to implement aspects of these plans or sustained momentum over time. It is also unclear how the various planning efforts relate to each other or what they amount to as a government-wide approach for reducing federal fiscal exposures. Further, existing strategic planning efforts generally do not address the roles, responsibilities, and working relationships among federal, state, and local entities; identify how such efforts will be funded and staffed over time; or establish mechanisms to track and monitor progress. Hence, the federal government cannot demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures.
Office of Management and Budget 3. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to clearly establish federal strategic climate change priorities, including the roles and responsibilities of the key federal entities, taking into consideration the full range of activities within the federal climate change enterprise.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to GAO's 2015 high-risk update, the federal government has recently initiated many climate-related strategic planning activities. Specifically, the President's June 2013 Climate Action Plan and November 2013 Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change show how federal agencies have made some progress on better organizing across agencies, within agencies, and among different levels of government. In response to this executive order, agencies created climate change adaptation plans that outline steps they will take to, for example, factor resilience to the effects of climate change into grant-making and investment decisions, and into the design and construction of new and existing agency facilities and infrastructure. Agencies completed their first adaptation plans in 2012 and updated the plans in October 2014. These and other federal efforts identify climate change as a priority and demonstrate commitment and top leadership support. While agencies have begun to take specific actions, most have yet to implement aspects of these plans or sustained momentum over time. It is also unclear how the various planning efforts relate to each other or what they amount to as a government-wide approach for reducing federal fiscal exposures. Further, existing strategic planning efforts generally do not address the roles, responsibilities, and working relationships among federal, state, and local entities; identify how such efforts will be funded and staffed over time; or establish mechanisms to track and monitor progress. Hence, the federal government cannot demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures.
Council on Environmental Quality 4. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, we recommend that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to assess the effectiveness of current practices for defining and reporting federal climate change funding and aligning funding with priorities, and make improvements to such practices as needed for Congress and the public to fully understand how climate change funds are spent.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) periodically reports climate change funding to Congress, but has yet to publicly make improvements to its reporting practices. For example, a 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service--analyzing the most recent publicly available climate change funding data--noted that OMB and agency sources may report inconsistent or incomplete data and that information is not available for all programs for all years (Federal Climate Change Funding from FY2008 to FY2014; September 13, 2013).
Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy 5. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, we recommend that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to assess the effectiveness of current practices for defining and reporting federal climate change funding and aligning funding with priorities, and make improvements to such practices as needed for Congress and the public to fully understand how climate change funds are spent.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to GAO's 2015 high-risk update, the federal government has recently initiated many climate-related strategic planning activities. Specifically, the President's June 2013 Climate Action Plan and November 2013 Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change show how federal agencies have made some progress on better organizing across agencies, within agencies, and among different levels of government. In response to this executive order, agencies created climate change adaptation plans that outline steps they will take to, for example, factor resilience to the effects of climate change into grant-making and investment decisions, and into the design and construction of new and existing agency facilities and infrastructure. Agencies completed their first adaptation plans in 2012 and updated the plans in October 2014. These and other federal efforts identify climate change as a priority and demonstrate commitment and top leadership support. While agencies have begun to take specific actions, most have yet to implement aspects of these plans or sustained momentum over time. It is also unclear how the various planning efforts relate to each other or what they amount to as a government-wide approach for reducing federal fiscal exposures. Further, existing strategic planning efforts generally do not address the roles, responsibilities, and working relationships among federal, state, and local entities; identify how such efforts will be funded and staffed over time; or establish mechanisms to track and monitor progress. Hence, the federal government cannot demonstrate progress in implementing corrective measures.
Office of Science and Technology Policy 6. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, we recommend that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to assess the effectiveness of current practices for defining and reporting federal climate change funding and aligning funding with priorities, and make improvements to such practices as needed for Congress and the public to fully understand how climate change funds are spent.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) periodically reports climate change funding to Congress, but has yet to publicly make improvements to its reporting practices. For example, a 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service--analyzing the most recent publicly available climate change funding data--noted that OMB and agency sources may report inconsistent or incomplete data and that information is not available for all programs for all years (Federal Climate Change Funding from FY2008 to FY2014; September 13, 2013).
Office of Management and Budget 7. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, we recommend that the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to assess the effectiveness of current practices for defining and reporting federal climate change funding and aligning funding with priorities, and make improvements to such practices as needed for Congress and the public to fully understand how climate change funds are spent.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) periodically reports climate change funding to Congress, but has yet to publicly make improvements to its reporting practices. For example, a 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service--analyzing the most recent publicly available climate change funding data--noted that OMB and agency sources may report inconsistent or incomplete data and that information is not available for all programs for all years (Federal Climate Change Funding from FY2008 to FY2014; September 13, 2013).
Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy 8. To improve the coordination and effectiveness of federal climate change programs and activities, the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Office and Management and Budget, and Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with Congress, should work together with relevant federal agencies and interagency coordinating bodies to clearly establish federal strategic climate change priorities, including the roles and responsibilities of the key federal entities, taking into consideration the full range of activities within the federal climate change enterprise.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) periodically reports climate change funding to Congress, but has yet to publicly make improvements to its reporting practices. For example, a 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service--analyzing the most recent publicly available climate change funding data--noted that OMB and agency sources may report inconsistent or incomplete data and that information is not available for all programs for all years (Federal Climate Change Funding from FY2008 to FY2014; September 13, 2013).

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