Clarke Introduces Legislation to Combat the Impacts of Climate Change

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) took significant action to protect Americans from climate change’s devastating impacts by reintroducing legislation to place the climate crisis at the center of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Companion legislation was also reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

Clarke said: “Like so many Americans, I watched in horror last year as wildfires and storms ravaged our nation. Climate change is a crisis. Our duty in Congress is to take bold action to tackle climate-warming emissions and protect the American public from future climate impacts. My legislation with Senator Markey, the FEMA Climate Change Preparedness Act, will ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is fully equipped to help our communities prepare for and recover from the natural disaster implications of climate change.” 

There is wide-ranging scientific consensus that climate change is triggering sea-level rise and causing more frequent and extreme weather events. As a direct result, the costs and devastation associated with natural disasters continue to rise every year, especially for low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. Not only was 2020 the second warmest year on record, it also set an alarming record of 22 climate disasters in the United States with losses each exceeding $1 billion–five more disasters of such magnitude than the previous record held jointly in 2011 and 2017.

Despite this clear and immediate threat to our Nation, the Trump Administration took unprecedented steps to ignore the role that climate change increasingly plays in natural disaster frequency and severity. Rep. Clarke’s legislation, the FEMA Climate Change Preparedness Act, takes immediate action to re-incorporate climate change impacts into the Agency’s current and future strategic planning. This billensures that America’s emergency management community will be better prepared for future climate disasters by comprehensively integrating climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience building throughout FEMA’s policies, strategies, and programs. 

“The prior Administration’s decision to remove climate change from FEMA’s lexicon was a clear abdication of the Federal Government’s responsibilities. We must comprehensively prepare for, respond to, and help mitigate all natural disaster threats facing our nation. This abdication must never be allowed to happen again, which is why my legislation permanently incorporates climate change preparedness into the Agency’s mission,” Clarke continued.

Specifically, Rep. Clarke’s legislation:

  • Directs FEMA to immediately re-incorporate climate change risks and impacts into the Agency’s current Strategic Plan, and all future plans;
  • Makes it the official policy of FEMA to recognize climate change as a significant near and long-term threat to homeland security, preventing any future abdication of the Agency’s duties;
  • Establishes a Climate Change Subcommittee on FEMA’s National Advisory Council to make national preparedness recommendations pertaining solely to climate change risks and impacts; and
  • Directs FEMA to perform a national assessment on climate change risks and preparedness, to be updated every four years.

“Our climate is changing, and FEMA should too,” said Senator Markey. “Climate change has fueled a devastating rise in extreme weather disasters, making FEMA’s job of protecting Americans more critical and more challenging than ever before. For FEMA to fulfill its important duty in a new and uncertain world, climate must be at the forefront of the agency’s planning and mission. All relevant agency policies, plans, programs, strategies, and operations must incorporate and center climate change, and this legislation will ensure that our national lifeline against natural disasters stays in top condition. I thank Rep. Clarke for her partnership on this critical legislation.”

Congresswoman Clarke is joined by 33 other members of the House of Representatives in introducing the FEMA Climate Change Preparedness Act, including Congressmembers Earl Blumenauer (OR), Matt Cartwright (PA), Steve Cohen (TN), Ro Khanna (CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Henry “Hank” C. Johnson Jr. (GA), Alan Lowenthal (CA), Mark Takano (CA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Joseph Morelle (NY), Nanette Barragan (CA), Chellie Pingree (ME), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Peter Welch (VT), Paul Tonko (NY), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Julia Brownley (CA), Andre Carson (IN), Ed Case (HI), Sean Casten (IL), Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Adriano Espaillat (NY), Jahana Hayes (CT), Jared Huffman (CA), Mondaire Jones (NY), Derek Kilmer (WA), Doris O. Matsui (CA), Gregory Meeks (NY), Gwen Moore (WI), Katie Porter (CA), Albio Sires (NJ), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY), and Debbie Dingell (MI). 

“The Union of Concerned Scientists supports the FEMA Climate Change Preparedness Act, which directs FEMA to address and incorporate the latest climate change science in its planning and policies,” said Shana Udvardy, Climate Resilience Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists. “By preparing for climate change, FEMA will be able to protect communities better and invest tax dollars wisely. The establishment of a diverse public-private advisory council will help ensure FEMA’s actions are grounded on local communities’ needs and priorities, especially those historically disadvantaged or disproportionately affected by climate impacts. This bill underscores the fact that the climate crisis is here and now, and that we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to help prepare for a more stormy future.”

###

Yvette D. Clarke has been in Congress since 2007. She represents New York’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes Central and South Brooklyn. Clarke is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee, and a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security.

Media contact: 

Remmington Belford e: Remmington.belford@mail.house.gov 

c: 202.480.5737