WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2013 – Climate change could potentially disrupt the Agriculture Department’s efforts to “meet the core obligations and responsibilities articulated by its missions and goals,” the department said in a report released Thursday.

In its 2012 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, the USDA said despite that possibility, the department is “well-positioned” to meet federal requirements regarding climate change adaption steps.

“USDA will continue to support activities across government that helps its agencies adapt to and become positioned to meet the risks, challenges, and opportunities presented by climate change and variability,” the report said.

The annual report has been required by all federal departments since President Obama issued a 2009 executive order, which set targets for reducing waste and pollution in federal operations by 2020.

The departments, including USDA, are expected to provide an overview of how agencies are saving taxpayer dollars, reducing carbon emissions, cutting waste, and saving energy.

This is the first year that the report contains climate change adaption plans to outline initiatives to reduce the vulnerability of federal programs, assets, and investments to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise or more frequent or severe extreme weather.

“By integrating climate change adaptation strategies into USDA’s programs and operations, USDA better ensures that taxpayer resources are invested wisely and that its services and operations remain effective in current and future climate conditions,” the report said.

While the report did not detail how climate change could potentially disrupt USDA obligations, it indicated that the department will “identify how climate change is likely to affect its ability to achieve USDA mission, operations, and policy and program objectives.”

The report discusses USDA’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), energy use in its buildings, and fuel use by its fleet vehicles, as well as other environmentally-friendly reductions.

For instance, the report found the department failed to achieve its fiscal year 2011 GHG emissions reduction target due to a rise in the consumption of fleet-related petroleum fuel use. However, the department fared well in relation to its buildings, where it achieved a 21.8 percent reduction in energy intensity in FY 2011.

The report also found the department is on track to recycle 50 percent of its construction and demolition debris by FY 2015.

Overall, the federal government has been seeing results of the executive order in the form of “reduced utility bills, more efficient operations, and less waste and pollution,” according to Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The USDA report will be available for 60 days of public comment, and may be updated as needed.

To view the report, visit: http://www.dm.usda.gov/emd/sspp.htm



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