Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 24, 2022
In the last 20 years, natural disasters—from extreme heat and spreading wildfires, to record droughts and floods—have caused more than $1.5 trillion in damage and economic losses across the United States. Increasing disaster costs and impacts pose a growing threat to American lives, livelihoods, infrastructure, supply chains, and national security.
Accordingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, together with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative and the Pew Charitable Trusts recently convened a unique coalition of key federal, state, and local government, business, and NGO leaders for a discussion on the future of federal resilience policy.
The key takeaways from the conference include:
- Resilience and adaptation are about people and communities.
- Resilience should be elevated as a national priority, on equal footing with mitigation.
- With recent IIJA funding, money is no longer the major problem, but rather more tools and partnerships (PPPs) are needed.
- Current statutes do not have all the solutions and may contain barriers to action.
- The most vulnerable communities often have the least resources and are unable to access federal help. Technical assistance is needed, and government programs may not be the only answer.
- Focus cannot be only on floods, but also other hazards such as droughts and wildfires.
- More data is needed to target the most at-risk communities.
The U.S. Chamber has long made building smart, modern, resilient infrastructure a priority. Our resilience principles call for a comprehensive and strategic approach that allows us all to plan ahead, reduce climate risks, and be prepared for future crises.
A critical next step is the adopt of the National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy Act introduced by Senator Coons and Representative Peters. This legislation among other priorities calls for national adaptation strategy, interagency coordination, and establishing a Chief Resilience Officer at the White House. The U.S. Chamber is working with a broad coalition of partners to support this bill.
In addition, while the U.S. Chamber opposed the recently passed reconciliation legislation, it contained significant investments in resilience. These include:
- $19.9 billion to support implementation of climate smart agriculture and conservation practices.
- $4 billion for drought programs in the American west.
- $12.5 million for emergency drought funding for Tribes.
- $2.6 billion in coastal resilience grants.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 11th annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference, government leaders and industry experts engaged in a discussion on Investing in Resilience Capacity Before a Disaster, which analyzed the current state of pre-disaster investments and possible improvements to create stronger and more resilient communities in light of crises.
These investments and policies, and other legislation and programs focusing on resilience and pre-disaster mitigation offer an opportunity for incremental progress, but together form a more comprehensive and strategic approach that can help safeguard companies and communities across the nation.