A woman in an orange high-visibility vest stands smiling at the camera near two wind turbines in a mountainous area.
This wind farm is part of Indonesia’s plan to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. | Credit: USAID Energy

Confronting the Climate Crisis

How USAID’s new Climate Strategy Will Accelerate Global Action
By Gillian Caldwell

As an Agency that stares down the world’s toughest challenges, none pose a greater threat than climate change. The science is clear: we have a narrow window remaining to dramatically reduce global emissions or we all face catastrophic consequences — with the most vulnerable populations continuing to get hit the hardest.

President Biden has made addressing the climate crisis a top priority for the U.S. Government and for USAID. And this is a pivotal moment for action.

This week, world leaders are convening at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, to update commitments made under the Paris Agreement in 2015.


A group of men on patrol walk through a river while one in the foreground looks at his phone.
Lawin Patrollers in the Philippines are more than forest patrols — they document violations, prepare reports, participate in apprehensions, and help educate communities where illegal forest activities are rampant.

It is an opportunity to celebrate an unprecedented level of engagement among public and private sector actors, while acknowledging that existing country pledges fall well short of what is needed. U.S. leadership in driving more ambitious climate commitments at COP26 is absolutely critical. USAID plays a critical role in these efforts by working with and supporting partner countries to help make their climate commitments a reality on the ground through locally led development.


A man stands in a corn field holding a hoe and smiles toward the camera.
Stephen Lomugemoi, 30, in his maize field. Stephen provides for his five children through farming, an increasingly difficult task in an area with increasingly inconsistent rainfall due to the climate crisis.
USAID’s New Climate Strategy Open for Public Comment

At USAID, we face the difficult challenge of needing to simultaneously confront the most urgent demands of the climate crisis in the here and now, while also supporting long-term transformative changes in key systems like energy and agriculture that are necessary to put the world on a more sustainable trajectory.

To confront these complex challenges, USAID is developing an ambitious whole-of-agency strategy to guide our efforts through 2030. Rising to the urgency of the moment, our new strategy sets our most ambitious timelines and targets ever for reducing global emissions, increasing people’s resilience, mobilizing climate financing, and working for equity.


Two men in high visibility vests smile and near a solar photovoltaic panel.
Workers install solar panels in Sumba, Indonesia.


Our new strategy will mark an important shift in strategic focus for USAID. In addition to continuing direct climate change programs in our traditional sectors of adaptation, renewable energy, and natural climate solutions, the new strategy will integrate climate across USAID’s broader portfolio — from governance and economic growth to health, human rights, and conflict. We will be moving from targeted interventions, such as pilots, to a whole-of-Agency approach to tackle climate change comprehensively and achieve larger scale impacts.

Aligning with President Biden’s ‘whole-of-government’ approach to address climate change comprehensively, the strategy will complement and reinforce the work of our interagency partners and broader U.S. Government strategic efforts. It will also build on the work that USAID has already done to lay the groundwork for large-scale renewable energy adoptionprotect forests and carbon sinks, and improve disaster preparedness and resilience in the face of increased climate hazards.


A lone woman walks through a stark arid landscape with firewood balanced on her head.
For a lot of the women in the harsh desert climate of Puros Village, Kaokoland, Kunene Region, Namibia, collecting firewood is a daily — but challenging — task as the commodity becomes scarcer and the search for firewood more wide-ranging.

We are also grounding our strategy in critical principles of equity, inclusion, and locally led development. And we are doing our part through a series of internal reforms to reduce emissions from our own operations, safeguard our facilities from climate risks, and improve the diversity of our workforce.

This strategy has been developed through a highly participatory and transparent public engagement process that included dozens of listening sessions with a wide range of stakeholders across civil society, the private sector, and government.


A woman wearing a head and face covering stands in a field of potatoes, leaning down to harvest some of the vegetables.
A woman potato farmer in Purba Burdwa District, West Bengal, India, where a USAID-PepsiCo partnership is empowering women in the potato supply chain and promoting the use of sustainable and regenerative farming practices to improve potato yields and profitability for rural farmers.

The draft USAID Climate Strategy for 2022–2030 is now open for public comment. We welcome your feedback until Nov. 24. If you are attending COP26 in person, please join me on Nov. 9 for a Civil Society Listening Session on the draft Climate Strategy.

This post was originally published on USAID Medium.

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Integration, Mitigation
Adaptation, Climate Change, Climate Change Integration, Climate Policy, Climate Science, Resilience

Gillian Caldwell


Gillian Caldwell is USAID’s Climate Change Coordinator, and is responsible for directing and overseeing all climate and environment work across the agency. She also serves as Deputy Assistant Administrator, overseeing DDI’s Center for Environment, Energy, and Infrastructure and the Office of Environmental and Social Risk Management. Follow her at @CaldwellUSAID.

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