GM 13-085

State Department Releases Draft Climate Action Report for Public Comment

On September 26, 2013, the U.S. State Department published the attached notice seeking public comments on the draft 2014 Climate Action Report. 78 Fed. Reg. 59412. The deadline for submitting comments is noon, October 24, 2013.

As described in the notice, the Climate Action Report consists of two documents that have been prepared in response to reporting requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was negotiated in 1992. One document is referred to as the Biennial Report, and the other is the National Communication. The Biennial Report is a relatively brief summary of actions that have been taken by the federal government in recent years and actions that are planned, to achieve the goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The National Communication, which is called for every four years, is a much more detailed document. There is also a document prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency captioned Methodologies for U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections: Non-CO2 and Non-Energy CO2 Sources. All of these documents are available at:

The Biennial Report includes an extended discussion of The President’s Climate Action Plan (June 2013). As described in the Report, the President’s Plan sets out “executive actions the administration will take, in partnership with states, communities, and the private sector, to continue on a path toward meeting the U.S. 2020 target.” The Report discusses in some detail the roles of states and local governments in helping to meet the 2020 target. The Report does not mention Indian tribal governments at all.

In the National Communication, while several chapters do not mention tribes at all, some of the chapters do include references to Indian tribal governments. The coverage of issues relevant to tribes, however, is far from comprehensive. For example, Chapter 4, “Policies and Measures,” includes eight pages on “Nonfederal Policies and Measures.” This section begins with the statement, “In the United States, local, state, and federal governments share responsibility for the nation’s economic development, energy, natural resources, and many other issues that affect climate mitigation. The federal government supports state and local government actions to reduce GHG emissions by sponsoring policy dialogues, issuing technical documents, facilitating consistent measurement approaches and model policies, and providing direct technical assistance.” Tribes are included in a table in this section, but there is no mention of tribal governments anywhere in the text.

There is considerably more discussion of tribal issues in Chapter 6, “Vulnerability, Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation Measures,” including a section captioned “Tribal Culture, Lands, and Resources.” The coverage of tribal issues in this chapter probably reflects the extent to which a number of tribes have been engaged in coping with climate change impacts and planning for adaptation.

The Climate Action Report is a report to the international community about what the United States has been doing to deal with climate change, and what it plans to do, both through reducing GHG emissions and through adaption to the changes that cannot be avoided. There may well be points at which some discussion of tribal issues should be added, or existing discussion enhanced. Aside from reviewing the documents with a view toward filing comments, the Climate Action Report could be valuable resource for tribal governments in that it can serve as a source of information about the range of programs through which the federal government provides assistance to states and local governments. Some of such programs may also be available to tribal governments, and some might be made available if tribes were to ask for inclusion. For example, the Building Energy Codes Program administered by the Department of Energy (discussed in chapter 4, on page 16) provides assistance to states to improve energy efficiency in buildings through adoption and enforcement of energy standards in building codes. The statutory authorization for this program does not mention tribes, but DOE could probably include tribes.

In a related development, on September 27, 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced the release of the first part of its Fifth Assessment, the IPCC Working Group I assessment report, Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, as well as a Summary for Policy Makers, available at: Reports of the other two IPCCC working groups: Impacts, Adaptation, & Vulnerability and Mitigation of Climate Change, are scheduled for release in March and April 2014, respectively, to be followed by a Synthesis Report in October 2014.

If we may be of further assistance regarding the Climate Action Report, please contact us at the information below.