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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Focusing
On Sustainable and Responsible Development In 2011

As required by the Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation Planning Implementing Instructions, we are releasing a statement that commits our agency to addressing the impacts climate change may have on our operations and assets through adaptation planning.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation Policy Statement

Secretary SebeliusJune 3, 2011

When President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on October 5, 2009, he committed the federal government to take a leadership role in promoting sustainability and responding to climate change. Actions called for in the order, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving water and other resources, will help build a clean energy economy and contribute to mitigating climate change. The order also requires each federal agency to evaluate risks and vulnerabilities associated with both short-and long-term effects of climate change on its ability to carry out its mission.

A number of scientific panels, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and International Panel on Climate Change, have published data indicating that climate change is already negatively affecting human health in the United States, and is likely to continue impacting human health in the future. Hazards linked to climate change include increases in the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, heavy rainfall, and flooding; changes in rates and ranges of infectious and allergic diseases; and threats to communities from rising sea levels and coastal erosion.  Although climate change may reduce certain health risks, most likely it will worsen many existing health threats, as well as introduce new ones. Individuals and communities with underlying vulnerabilities that contribute to poor health, such as poverty, being very young or old, having pre-existing health (including behavioral health) conditions, and living in vulnerable geographic areas will be the most at risk of harm. HHS’s responsibility is to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. As such, our Department has dual critical roles to play in reducing our own environmental impact while facilitating understanding of and adapting to climate change. Through these actions, we will set the example of responsible stewardship and improve individual and community resilience, supporting a healthier future for the American people. 

At HHS, we understand the importance of sustainable, climate-resilient communities. We know that we must take a lead role in ensuring that our own facilities and operations set an example for sustainability.  We commit to continued compliance with all environmental, energy, and public health statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders. We will also set the standard for federal agencies in sustainable development, provide climate-resilient health and human services, and support scientific research focused on environmental and public health, including research on the effects of climate change on human health and well-being. Our Department will adopt the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force guiding principles to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies into our sustainability and health programs, policies, and operations.

In the coming year, HHS will identify how climate change may impact our Department’s ability to carry out its mission, programs, policies, and operations, as well as to determine how we should prepare for and respond to a changing climate. Our plan will focus on ensuring sustainability by integrating climate change and environmental impact considerations into internal management functions and policies; by collecting, analyzing, and utilizing state of the science data; and by enhancing issue awareness and specialty training for our employees.  As part of this plan, we will identify and prioritize actions to respond to climate change, and will establish mechanisms for evaluating our ongoing capacity to effectively adapt to current and future changes in the climate.  We will leverage HHS regional and preparedness programs and existing healthy community and climate change initiatives to complement and build upon our Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and enhance collaboration with other federal agencies, State, Local, and Tribal governments.

HHS will continue instilling sustainable practices throughout our programs and operations as we respond to the new challenge of adapting to climate change as we continue to fulfill our mission.  Through our past accomplishments and future commitments, the Department of Health and Human Services will lead the way toward a healthy future for all Americans.

Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services