USDA is committed to fostering a clean energy economy and to improving the environment by conducting operations in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, complying with environmental laws and regulations, and leading by example. In order to fulfill its mission of providing leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues, USDA focuses on the future. The Department recognizes the significance of global climate change and how potential impacts such as more frequent or severe weather events can affect our programs and operations.
To better coordinate USDA’s sustainability efforts and build on past success, USDA has prepared its 2012 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that underscores strategies and goals to save taxpayer dollars, reduce carbon emissions, cut waste and save energy. As part of this effort, this year we have also prepared a Climate Change Adaptation Plan that outlines how the Department will address the impacts of climate change on its key mission areas such as agricultural production, food security, rural development, and forestry and natural resources conservation. The plan is available and open for a 60-day public comment period.
The USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes input from eleven USDA agencies and offices. It provides a detailed vulnerability assessment, reviews the elements of USDA’s mission that are at risk from climate change, and provides specific actions and steps being taken to build resilience to climate change. The plan advances President Obama’s efforts to prepare the federal government for climate change. We expect to revise and update the plan in 2013 in response to comments received from the public.
Specifically, the plan provides a review of past performance, addresses challenges to achieving sustainability, discusses lessons learned, and outlines actions planned beyond 2012. The plan also highlights the following achievements within USDA:
- Purchase and generation of enough green power to meet 19.5 percent of the Department’s electricity use, thus improving the Department’s ranking to number seven on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the largest federal agency users of green power
- 12.1 percent reduction in indirect greenhouse gas emissions compared to the 2008 base year.
- 21.8 percent reduction in energy intensity compared to the 2003 base year.
- Implementation of the National Water Quality Initiative in priority watersheds to improve water quality and aquatic habitat in impaired streams.
- 97 percent increase in alternative fuel consumption (for fleet vehicles) compared to the 2005 base year.
- Acquisition of 75 percent of covered light duty and mid-sized alternative fuel vehicles.
- 18.9 percent reduction in potable water use compared to the 2007 base year.
USDA encourages the public to review the document and provide comments by April 8, 2013. The USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan can be accessed at http://www.dm.usda.gov/emd.
All comments are to be directed to William Hohenstein, Director of USDA’s Climate Change Program Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.