President Biden made it clear from the start of his Administration that fighting climate change would be an urgent priority. On his first day in the Oval Office, he returned the United States to the Paris Agreement. A week later, he signed the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which calls on all agencies to prioritize climate change in their work. As the U.S. Government’s lead international development agency, USAID took this directive to heart.
Fast forward to the Leaders Summit on Climate in April, and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, where the U.S. Government and USAID launched several major initiatives, like PREPARE and the Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks. Meanwhile, USAID is well on its way to launching a climate strategy with the Agency’s most ambitious climate targets ever.
After another year of record-breaking heat waves, storms, droughts, and fires, it is clear that the threats of climate change are multiplying. But with demand for renewable energy and green technology booming, the economic opportunities created by climate solutions are multiplying, as well.
The task before us is not easy. Climate change is one of the most difficult challenges we have ever faced — one that touches every corner of the globe and every priority we have as an Agency, from ecosystems and biodiversity to food and water security. USAID is prepared to address this challenge given our breadth of technical expertise, decades of experience, and longstanding relationships with over 100 partner countries.
We will soon be releasing the final version of the USAID Climate Strategy that will guide our efforts through 2030. In this new strategy, we are motivated by a vision of a resilient, prosperous, and equitable world with net-zero emissions. The Agency has six high-level targets that reflect the urgency of the situation. By 2030, USAID will:
- Support the protection, restoration, or management of 100 million hectares of forests and landscapes, which absorb carbon from the atmosphere;
- Support partner countries to reduce, avoid, or sequester 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent;
- Align USAID programming in at least 80 countries by 2024 with countries’ targets under the Paris Agreement and National Adaptation Plans, and with USAID support at least half of these countries will demonstrate significant progress toward achieving country commitments;
- Mobilize $150 billion in public and private finance for climate mitigation and adaptation;
- Enable the improved climate resilience of 500 million people through activities like improved water resource management and disaster risk reduction; and
- Support structural changes that improve participation and leadership in climate action for Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women, and youth in at least 40 partner countries.
Our strategy is anchored in a shift from viewing climate change as solely an environmental problem to a whole-of-Agency issue centered on two strategic objectives:
- Facilitating immediate action that will confront the most urgent demands of the climate crisis — including reducing emissions, building resilience, mobilizing finance, partnering with Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and amplifying crucial voices.
- Driving systems change to improve governance, incentivize behavior change, and shift market signals. Addressing the climate crisis requires long-term, transformative changes that affect every aspect of society and will be neither easy nor quick. It focuses on taking a systems approach to enact fundamental policy changes.
We also recognize that USAID will need to address the climate crisis by transforming the way the Agency operates through a third special objective. This includes reducing emissions from our infrastructure and staff travel, integrating climate resilience and mitigation into our programming, furthering climate justice, strengthening the diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility of the climate workforce, and enhancing our social safeguard policies to prevent undue harm during development.
Throughout the planning process, we have had an inclusive approach with internal and external stakeholders that has generated unprecedented support for climate action within USAID. The process is just as important as the final product. We are getting stakeholders on the same page, cultivating relationships, and generating momentum to deliver impact.
These conversations have resulted in thousands of largely positive comments and some ways we might improve the strategy. We are integrating comments with plans to release our final climate strategy this spring.
We’ll be working hard to put this framework into practice ahead of COP27 — the next UN Climate Change Conference. We have ramped up Agency programs, cultivated new partners, and made promises at COP26 that we’re ready to back up.
We are staring down the biggest challenge the world has ever faced, and we know that the only way we can tackle it is through ambitious and collaborative action. Join us.
This blog was originally published on USAID's Medium Page.
USAID’s 2022-2030 Climate Strategy
USAID’s 2022-2030 Climate Strategy takes an unprecedented “whole-of-Agency” approach that calls on all corners of USAID to play a part. USAID will work on the ground with partner governments and local actors to set the global trajectory toward a vision of a resilient, prosperous, and equitable world with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.View Content
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.