Adaptation provisions in the Kerry-Boxer Senate climate and clean energy legislation


In its sections on adaptation and preparedness for global climate disruption, the bill introduced by Senator Kerry and Senator Boxer on September 30 parallels in some respects and differs in others from the Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill as passed by the House in June. In this aspect of climate policy, as with its Pollution Reduction and Investment mitigation provisions, the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act as introduced is a work in progress, a first step toward what must become a fully-developed climate change preparedness strategy.

Post by Rick Piltz & Alexa Jay

UPDATE 10-28-09:  On October 23, Senator Boxer, Chairman of the Environment and Works Committee, released an amendment in the nature of a substitute, which is intended to replace the text in the original Kerry-Boxer bill, S. 1733.  The new 923-page “Chairman’s mark” can be found here (.pdf), along with a summary of the key changes, here (.pdf), and a fact sheet explaining how the CO2 allowances are distributed in the bill.  In addition, the US EPA did a formal analysis of the new provisions, found here.  CSW is preparing an analysis of the new provisions. 


Web page for the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act
(includes overview, summary, full text, and press release)

Web page for the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill, H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

Climate Science Watch recommendations for the Senate climate bill on preparedness, research, and climate services

Still Missing: A National Strategy for Climate Change Preparedness

Neither the Kerry-Boxer bill as introduced nor the House-passed bill contains a process at the federal level for developing and implementing a national strategic plan to address the full range of sectors expected to be affected by global climate disruption.  This limitation should be corrected in the legislation.

Climate Science Watch has recommended the development and implementation of a comprehensive, proactive national planning and preparedness strategy for limiting and adapting to the impacts of climate change. A national strategy, which should be developed under White House leadership, should be integrated with federal support for the development and implementation of state-level plans. The legislation should include the establishment of a federal climate change preparedness entity responsible for coordinating interagency activity and federal-state-local cooperation on planning and preparedness.

The planning process for a national strategy should identify specific socioeconomic and natural resource sectors that require interagency coordination on adaptation. The relevant agencies for each sector should be required to develop a plan for that sector that draws on and integrates agency-specific plans.  The recently announced Climate Change Response Council at the Department of Interior charged with bringing about “an integrated strategy for responding to climate change impacts” affecting all of the natural and cultural resources under DOI’s purview is a good start that should be replicated across the federal government. (See our post, Interior Secretary Salazar on right track with new climate initiative but faces tough road ahead.)  Agency and sector plans would form the basis for an integrated national strategic plan. Provisions such as those for drinking water, public health, and natural resources adaptation in the Kerry-Boxer and House-passed bills should be incorporated as sectors in such a plan. Other crucial sectors that are not covered in either bill should also be considered, such as coastal settlements and ecosystems, transportation and energy systems and infrastructure, and food production.

Summary of Adaptation provisions in the Kerry-Boxer bill, in the order they appear in the text of the bill

Drinking Water Adaptation

(Division A—Authorizations for Pollution Reduction, Transition, and Adaptation, Title II—Research, Subtitle B—Drinking Water Adaptation, Technology, Education, and Research, Sec. 211—Effects of climate change on drinking water utilities) 
The Kerry-Boxer bill states that because changing precipitation patterns and their implications for drinking water supplies will be among the earliest and most critical impacts of climate change, a “comprehensive program of research into the full range of impacts on drinking water utilities, including impacts on water supplies, facilities, and customers,” is needed.

The bill would direct the EPA Administrator, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, and the Secretary of the Interior to establish and fund a research program to assist utilities in adapting to the effects of climate change, to be conducted through a nonprofit drinking water research foundation and sponsored by water utilities.

Research would include investigation of water quality impacts and solutions, impacts on groundwater from carbon capture and sequestration, water infrastructure impacts and solutions, regional and hydrological basin cooperative water management solutions, utility management, decision support systems, and water management models, water conservation and demand management, and “ways of increasing the resilience of existing infrastructure,” and “planning cost-effective responses to adapt to climate change.”

The Waxman-Markey House bill does not contain a similar provision for drinking water adaptation.

International Climate Change Adaptation

(Division A, Title III—Transition and Adaptation, Subtitle B—International Climate Change Programs, Sec. 324—International climate change adaptation and global security program)

Kerry-Boxer would establish a Strategic Interagency Board on International Climate Investment, composed of the EPA Administrator, the Secretary of State, the US Agency for International Development Administrator, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Agriculture, for the purpose of “assessing, monitoring, and evaluating the progress and contributions of relevant departments and agencies of the Federal Government in supporting financing for international climate change activities.”

The bill would create an “International Climate Change Adaptation and Global Security Program” to provide assistance to the most vulnerable developing countries, and “support the development and implementation of climate change adaptation programs in a way that protects and promotes the interests of the United States, to the extent those interests may be advanced by minimizing, averting, or increasing resilience to climate change impacts.” Funding would be distributed in the form of bilateral assistance, and multilateral funds or international institutions pursuant to the Convention or an agreement negotiated under the Convention. 

The Waxman-Markey bill would create an International Climate Change Adaptation Program within USAID to provide US assistance to the most vulnerable developing countries for adaptation to climate change. Allowances would be distributed bilaterally and through multilateral funds or institutions pursuant to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Multilateral institutions must receive between 40 and 60% of allowances.  The bilateral assistance program would be required to distribute allowances through public or private institutions according to level of vulnerability, and would seek to align broader US foreign policy goals with its assistance. 

U.S. Global Change Research Program and National Climate Service

(Division A, Title III—Transition and Adaptation, Subtitle C—Adapting to Climate Change, Part 1—Domestic Adaptation, Subpart A—National Climate Change Adaptation Program, Sec. 341-342)

The Kerry-Boxer bill would establish within the U.S. Global Change Research Program a National Climate Change Adaptation Program “for the purpose of increasing the overall effectiveness of Federal climate change adaptation efforts.” The language here is quite limited and will presumably be expanded during the mark-up process. The bill does not deal with the USGCRP any further. (This apparently “placeholder” language parallels the process used with an early version of Waxman-Markey. Subsequently, detailed text on the US Global Change Research Program was approved by the House Committee on Science and Technology and appeared in this location in the version of Waxman-Markey as passed. But, while the bill as passed by the House includes additional mandates for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, it does not include a “National Climate Change Adaptation Program.” We expect that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will further develop this component of the bill.)

The Kerry-Boxer bill would establish a National Climate Service, “in order to develop climate information, data, forecasts, and warnings at national and regional scales, and to distribute information related to climate impacts to State, local, and tribal governments and the public to facilitate the development and implementation of strategies to reduce society’s vulnerability to climate variability and change.”  (Again, the bill uses what looks like placeholder language here, and we expect that the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will develop this component.)

We note that, in contrast to the House bill, Kerry-Boxer as introduced would place the National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The House bill instead mandates an interagency planning process, led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to decide on the location and function of a National Climate Service.  We support the White House-led interagency planning process specified in the House bill. As OSTP Director John Holdren testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on July 30: “No single agency is capable of providing all of the information and services needed to inform decision-making. To be successful, the delivery of climate services will require sustained federal agency partnerships and collaboration with climate service providers and end users.”

Public Health and Climate Change

(Division A, Title III—Transition and Adaptation, Subtitle C—Adapting to Climate Change, Part 1—Domestic Adaptation, Subpart B—Public Health and Climate Change, Sec. 351-356)

The bill imports the Waxman-Markey section on public health and climate change, which mandates measures to assist health professionals in adapting to the health effects of climate change, including the “development, implementation, and support of State, regional, tribal, and local preparedness, communication, and response plans to anticipate and reduce the health threats of climate change.”     

Natural Resources Adaptation

(Division A, Title III—Transition and Adaptation, Subtitle C—Adapting to Climate Change, Part 1—Domestic Adaptation, Subpart C—Climate Change Safeguards for Natural Resources Conservation, Sec. 361-372)

Like the Waxman-Markey bill, the Kerry-Boxer bill establishes a National Resources Climate Change Adaptation Panel chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality, as a forum for interagency coordination on natural resources adaptation, and requires the development of a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. States and Federal agencies are also required to develop Adaptation Strategies, and a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Account is created. Waxman-Markey divides the funding into two categories, funding for states and funding for federal agencies, but does not specify the relative amounts to be allocated to each. Kerry-Boxer establishes a fixed relationship between state funding and federal agency funding: 38.5% will go to state agencies, and the remainder of the funds will be divided among federal agencies. 

Waxman-Markey: For funds distributed to the states, 84.4% to state wildlife agencies and 15.6% to state coastal agencies. Funds to Federal agencies: 27.6% to the Department of Interior (DOI) for endangered species, bird, and Fish and Wildlife Service programs, wildlife refuges, and the Bureau of Reclamation; 8.1% to DOI for cooperative grant programs; 4.9% to DOI for tribal programs; 19.5% to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act; 5% to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Forest Service; 12.2% to EPA for freshwater ecosystems; 8.1% to the Army Corps of Engineers for freshwater ecosystems; and 11.5% to NOAA for coastal and marine ecosystems.

Kerry-Boxer: 32.5% will go to State wildlife agencies, 6% to State coastal agencies, 17% to the Department of Interior for endangered species, bird, and Fish and Wildlife Service programs, wildlife refuges, and the Bureau of Reclamation; 5% to the DOI for competitive grant programs; 5% to USDA for the Forest Service; 7.5% to EPA for estuaries and freshwater ecosystems; 5% to the Army Corps of Engineers for freshwater ecosystems, and 7% to the Secretary of Commerce for coastal and marine ecosystems.

Additional Climate Change Adaptation Programs

(Division A, Title III—Transition and Adaptation, Subtitle C—Adapting to Climate Change, Part 1—Domestic Adaptation, Subpart D—Additional Climate Change Adaptation Programs, Sec. 381-384)

The following four provisions in the Kerry-Boxer bill are not contained in the House bill:

Water System Mitigation and Adaptation Partnerships

Kerry-Boxer would establish a water system mitigation and adaptation partnership program to provide funds to States for water system adaptation projects. Funds would be distributed by States according to level of vulnerability to the owners or operators of water systems to address climate-related impacts on water quality, supply, or reliability.

Flood Control, Protection, Prevention and Response Program

Kerry-Boxer would establish a Flood Control, Protection, Prevention and Response Program to provide funds to States for flood control, protection, prevention, and response projects, so as to “mitigate or adapt to the destructive impacts of climate related increases in the duration, frequency, or magnitude of rainfall or runoff…as well as hurricanes.” Priority would be given to those projects that directly assist local governments and communities through these activities.


The bill notes that since 1980, wildfires in the United States have burned almost twice as many acres per year on average than the average burned acreage during the previous 60 years; that the wildfire season in the western United States increased by an average of 78 days during the last 30 years; and that researchers predict that the area subject to wildfire damage will increase by up to 118 percent during the 21st century as a result of climate change. Kerry-Boxer would authorize a program to reduce the risk of wildfires in fire-ready communities.  The program would create regional maps of communities most at risk of wildfire and identify priority areas for hazardous fuels reduction projects. Grants would be provided for fire protection education programs, training programs for local firefighters on wildland firefighting techniques and approaches, equipment to increase wildland fire preparedness, implementation of community wildfire protection plans, and forest restoration that accomplishes fuels reduction.

Coastal and Great Lakes State Adaptation Program

Coastal states would receive funding under this program based on the number of shoreline miles relative to other states (25%) and population relative to other coastal states (25%), with 50% to be divided equally among coastal states.

Funding for Adaptation

Neither the Senate nor the House bill provide for funding sources for preparedness and adaptation other than the revenue streams generated from the auction and sale of allowances under a cap-and-trade regime.  The US Congress needs to develop a contingency plan for funding critical preparedness efforts at the state and local level for priorities that will not wait for a national cap-and-trade program to get up and running.  Should President Obama initiate an effort to begin to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, this action could create a basis for revenue-neutral preparedness assistance. 

(Division B—Pollution Reduction and Investment, Title II—Program Allocations, Sec. 208, 211-213)
The Kerry-Boxer bill establishes a framework for funding Adaptation activities via revenue streams from the sale or auctioning of emissions allowances. The bill as introduced does not yet specify the quantity of emissions allowances that would be allocated for each of these activities: 

Section 208. International Climate Change Adaptation and Global Security

The Secretary of State would distribute emission allowances allocated for the following vintage year pursuant to section 771(a)(14) of the Clean Air Act exclusively for the purpose of section 324 of division A.

Section 211. State Programs for Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Climate Adaptation

This section would establish a State Climate Change Response and Transportation Fund in each state, in which auction proceeds would be deposited. 10% of funding would be distributed among coastal and Great Lakes States, 1% to Indian tribes, and the remaining proceeds to fund State and local government programs for greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation, divided equally between funding of transportation grant programs, and funding of other programs administered by the States, including: grants to fund water systems mitigation and adaptation partnerships, flood control and response, recycling programs, adverse impacts on agriculture and ranching activities, and programs addressing air pollution and air quality.

These funds would be used exclusively for the development and implementation of projects, programs, or measures to address climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases or by building resilience to the impacts of climate change. Not less than 12.5% of the proceeds deposited to SCCR Accounts must be distributed to local units of government for these activities. States and units of local government must ensure that programs and projects are funded responding to impacts affecting socially and economically vulnerable populations.

Beginning with vintage year 2012, distribution of allowance proceeds to a State pursuant to this section would be contingent on approval of a State Climate Change Response Plan, to be updated every two years.

The Plan must: assess and prioritize the vulnerability of a State to a broad range of impacts of climate change, identify and prioritize specific cost-effective projects, programs, and measures to mitigate and build resilience to current and predicted impacts of climate change, include an assessment of potential for carbon reduction through changes to land management policies, ensure that the State considers and undertakes, where practicable, initiatives that protect or enhance natural ecosystem functions, give consideration to impacts affecting socially and economically vulnerable populations, and use pre-disaster mitigation, emergency response, and public insurance programs to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Tribal response plans are to be developed in the same manner, but may vary to the extent necessary to account for the special circumstances of Indian tribes.

The Waxman-Markey bill contains a substantial and well-crafted parallel component that would establish a program for building State-level resiliency to climate change impacts. States would develop Adaptation Plans to address a wide range of potential climate change impacts. On federal approval of each State’s plan, funding via emission allowances would be distributed for the implementation of adaptation projects, programs, or measures to build resilience.

Section 212. Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Fund

This section would distribute proceeds of emission allowances for activities to prepare and respond to the impacts of climate change on public health pursuant to Sections 351-356 of Division A.

Section 213. Climate Change Safeguards for Natural Resources Conservation

This section would distribute proceeds of emission allowances for activities to prepare and respond to the impacts of climate change on natural resources pursuant to Sections 361-372 of Division A.

Adaptation funding in the Waxman-Markey bill

In the Waxman-Markey bill, funding for adaptation programs would come from revenue raised by:

(1) auctioning of specified percentages of the available emissions allowances each year by the federal government and designating the revenue for particular adaptation programs; and
(2) earmarking the allocation of specified percentages of allowances – which presumably could be sold in order to create a pool of funding – to support particular programs.

Five new programs for which federal funding would be authorized under these revenue streams, starting in 2012 and continuing through 2050, are:

(1) Domestic Adaptation – federal funding to states that develop approved climate change adaptation plans, according to a population/income formula, and also to tribal governments;
(2) Wildlife and Natural Resources Adaptation – federal funding to state wildlife and coastal management agencies according to formulas specified in current laws;
(3) Climate Change Public Health Fund – federal funding to federal agencies and to state, local, tribal, and foreign governments for preparing health systems to respond to the impacts of climate change;
(4) Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund – funding to federal agencies with responsibilities for natural resources, according to a percentage formula; and
(5) International Adaptation – bilateral and multilateral assistance to developing countries to support vulnerability assessments, climate change adaptation plans, capacity-building to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience, and responding to destabilizing impacts.

There is a complex set of allocation formulas and program mandates and guidelines in the Waxman-Markey bill. The bottom line is that support for Adaptation ramps up over time. Adding up all the pieces – percentage of the total allocation of emissions allowances plus percentage of designated allowance auction revenue—Adaptation would receive about 3% during the time period from 2012-2021, increase to about 6% from 2022-2026, and to about 12% from 2027-2050.  No specific dollar amounts can be associated with these funding mechanisms in advance.  The amounts of revenue would be contingent on the value of emissions allowances over time.

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