“We have got to get busy deploying dollars and energy and ingenuity to tackle the problem,” said Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at a recent Center for Climate and Security (CCS) event: “U.S. Climate Security Investments: Changing Plans into Actions” (watch the whole event below)
Caldwell was joined by Joe Bryan, Department of Defense (DoD) Senior Advisor for Climate; Dr. Teresa Pohlman, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Executive Director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs; and Jesse Young, Senior Advisor in the Office of the Senior Presidential Envoy for Climate at the U.S. State Department. The panel spoke to the unprecedented, and much needed, funding dedicated to climate security issues in the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget request, presented to Congress in March.
These funds are critical for translating climate security plans into action. Earlier this year, the Climate and Security Advisory Group published Challenge Accepted which celebrated the plans that have been made during the first year of the Biden administration, but encouraged the U.S. government to move from plans to deeds.
Adding to a statement by CCS Director Emeritus John Conger that, “Strategy without budget is hallucination”, Pohlman argued that, “Strategy without budget is exhaustion.” She noted that new infusions of climate-specific funding for agencies like DHS will allow them to demonstrate the importance of climate action to the department mission. For DoD, climate resilience “investments are absolutely necessary for future mission success,” said Bryan, reiterating that there is no competition between what is good for the climate and what is good for the mission. At the State department, the arguments for increasing climate resilience funds are founded on stabilization which “is key to our national security,” said Young. “Adaptation and resilience investments are one of the best ways to meet those needs for additional stabilization.”
CCS has often said that climate security requires a whole of government response. Young said that in developing the FY23 budget request, the Office of the Senior Presidential Envoy for Climate worked across agencies and departments to use every opportunity to embed climate funding into existing programs. Caldwell noted that at USAID, this constitutes the “criticality of integration,” and though the climate portion of the broader USAID budget is small, the agency is seeking opportunities to identify “co-benefits”—where it is possible to include climate action in other projects and funding—because USAID is, ultimately, “a climate agency now.”
“From Lake Mead to Lake Chad, the climate crisis is accelerating,” said Bryan, emphasizing the need for concerted action on climate change now. For, as Caldwell said, “it’s really penny wise and pound foolish not to make these investments.” With the climate security funding in the FY23 budget request, the administration is seeking to put money behind strategy and move from words to deeds.