National Capital Planning Commission

Climate Change

Preparing for Climate Change Requires Regional Coordination

The Tidal Basin of the National Mall is one of the most photographed and visited landscapes in Washington. It is also an example of how climate change is effecting the National Capital Region. Scientists and arborists are noting that the cherry trees are blooming sooner each decade with the earlier arrival of warm spring temperatures. More frequent and intense storm events cause ponding of water along the basin's walks. The Tidal Basin reminds us that our infrastructure systems, including roads, rails, bridges, sewers, power grid, and water lines are vulnerable to the changing climate. We need to understand the impacts of these changes and to work collectively to ensure the resiliency of the National Capital.

The Monumental Core of Washington, DC consists of the National Mall, the White House, the U.S. Capitol, Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon and the surrounding federal areas.

Executive Order 13514 required every federal agency to evaluate and identify how its actions and programs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. On March 4, 2011, the White House Council on Environmental Quality expanded the requirements to include guidance on how federal agencies should integrate climate change adaptation strategies into their planning, operations, policies, and programs. The guidance encouraged federal agencies to coordinate its strategies with other federal agencies, tribal communities, as well as local and state agencies.

Flooded Washington DC streets
Flooding in Washington's monumental core damaged buildings, disrupted operations, and required substantial investments for repair and protection.
"We've got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses, and withstand more powerful storms...

We'll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods...

And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public..."

— President Barack Obama, Speech on climate change, Georgetown University, June 25, 2013
No other place in the country is there a higher concentration of federal agencies than in the Monumental Core; therefore, coordination of implementation efforts among federal agencies is not only important, but an opportunity to set the example on how federal agencies can coordinate with local, regional and state governments in other parts of the country.

With this in mind, NCPC formed the Monumental Core Climate Adaptation working group in April 2013 to facilitate collaboration among 24 federal, District and regional agencies to identify a common set of baseline climate data, define the short-term and long term climate risks for the physical environment and the population, and formulate a shared set of climate adaptation priorities. This information will help agencies develop their individual climate adaptation strategies. And, for NCPC, this effort will inform and guide climate adaptation policies as we update the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital.

Other Climate Adaptation Initiatives in the National Capital Region
NCPC is collaborating with NASA, the General Services Administration (GSA), the Smithsonian Institution, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on a series of webinars and workshops to increase the climate adaptation planning capacity of federal agencies and local governments in the region. This short-term partnership, called Building a Climate Resilient National Capital Region is described in Building Resilience.

NCPC is also actively involved in several interagency climate adaptation activities in the region being led by other agencies, including the GSA's National Office, the District Department of the Environment, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

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