2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan - U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs
The United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Climate Action Plan (CAP) outlines VA’s response to the projected impacts of climate change to the department with the goal of ensuring sustained operations to support the uninterrupted delivery of benefits and services and VA’s “Fourth Mission.” VA is generating this plan in response to the requirements in section 211 of Executive Order (EO) 14008, signed January 27, 2021, which places greater emphasis on taking a government wide approach to the climate crisis. VA will continue its effort to identify mission critical functions at risk from the impacts of a changing climate. As impacts are further identified by the best available science, VA will incorporate climate change adaptation and resilience across agency programs and the management of federal procurement, real property, public lands and waters and financial programs. Mitigation of known risks are incorporated into the agency’s normal business operations to the extent practicable.
This plan draws on VA’s ongoing efforts and establishes a pathway for expanding climate adaptation and resilience opportunities across all agency missions and roles. Efforts described in this plan will also be incorporated into the VA governance process. The plan identifies five vulnerabilities tied to management function and decision points, five priority adaptation actions, efforts to enhance climate literacy and actions to enhance climate resilience of facilities, supplies and services. It focuses on VA’s physical infrastructure, resources, supply chain and the effects of climate change on the health of VA employees and the Veterans its serves.
Climate Impacts and VA Vulnerabilities
Climate change is driving widespread changes to both natural and human systems. With a broad mission and geographical distribution of facilities, VA expects to be affected by these changes in a variety of ways. VA's primary climate vulnerabilities are those of its built infrastructure and burdens placed on its health care delivery systems, and interruptions in the supply of energy and material. Specific vulnerabilities include:
- Threats to VA Facilities and Infrastructure: Damage to buildings and built infrastructure from water, extreme temperatures, wind, hail, fire or sea level rise
- Negative Public Health Impact: Increased demand for emergency care and supplies during dangerous natural disasters
- Adverse Financial Impacts: Interruption of mission critical supply chains to include any network of systems such as transportation, communications, the supply of raw materials or other resources that might impact the agency’s mission
- Emergency Response and Continuity of Health care Operations: Damage to or interruption of the critical resource delivery systems on which VA facilities rely such as electrical, power line failure or water
- Adverse Medical Impact to Veterans and Employees: Human health impacts by altering exposures to heat waves, floods, droughts and other extreme events like food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, changes in the quality and safety of air, food, water and stresses to mental health
VA's strategy balances the need for climate adaptation and resilience with other needs crucial to VA’s mission of providing quality care and benefits to Veterans. VA understands the importance of anticipating and planning for future changes in climate and is working to expand its adaptation efforts to include the full scope of its operations while continuing to deploy its climate adaptation strategy.
Infrastructure Resilience-Building Adaptation Actions VA is taking actions to decrease vulnerability to physical threats. Priority actions to build resilience against physical threats to VA infrastructure include:
- Generating new and updated design standards
- Incorporating climate priorities into VA’s Strategic Capital Investment Planning Process (SCIP)
Health and Health Care Resilience-Building Adaptation Actions
VA seeks to minimize the negative impacts of climate change driven health outcomes on both its staff and its patients. Currently the focus is on providing crucial knowledge to VA staff and Veterans and monitoring and responding to public health issues made more likely by climate change. Priority actions to address public health impacts of climate change and to prepare Veterans and VA staff for climate change-enabled health impacts include:
- Maintaining critical supply stockpiles
- Pursuing biosurveillance and epidemiologic investigations
- Updating climate change within emergency response planning
Climate Literacy VA will build on previous educational efforts through a renewed awareness campaign focused on leadership and management levels within the workforce. VA will target its literacy campaign on promoting climate change awareness to further VA’s adaptation actions and support workforce planning.
Climate Ready Sites and Facilities
VA will continue its efforts to transform owned building inventory to climate ready sites and facilities through design and construction. VA is looking to establish a “ClimateReady Sites and Facilities Working Group” to identify opportunities to enhance climate resilience throughout each of the decision points in facility planning, development and management processes. VA will also supplement and continue to improve existing projects and initiatives related to climate readiness of existing buildings by implementing energy and water conservation and resiliency measures. Climate Ready Supply of Products and Services VA’s supply of products and services are at risk during disruptions from extreme weather events and long-term changes to the local environment through climate change. VA strictly follows end-to-end acquisition lifecycle and complies with Federal acquisition guidance to address its supply and service’s needs. To bolster this effort, VA is establishing Regional Readiness Centers (RRC) to build resiliency into the supply chain and support VA’s readiness for local, regional and national pandemic response, thereby minimizing medical supply chain disruptions.