The fund, announced in Fresno, California, is part of Obama's
pledge to speed federal assistance to the most populous U.S. state.
California is attempting to cope with its worst drought in recorded
history, which is threatening its critical agriculture industry,
energy production and other industries.
The fund is part of a broader approach to deal with climate change
that Obama outlined in his Climate Action Plan in June 2013.
While certain elements of that plan can be carried out through
executive action, the fund requires Congressional approval, which
makes its future uncertain.
"Given the saliency of the issues in communities across the
political spectrum, it seems likely to create some momentum for
action in Congress, although obviously that is very hard to say in
the current environment," said Billy Pizer, associate professor at
the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.
Republicans and some Democrats in coal reliant states have bitterly
opposed previous attempts to pass legislation that would put a
mandatory limit on carbon emissions. Some have tried to pass
legislation that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from
regulating carbon emissions.
The proposal will be formally introduced when Obama unveils his
fiscal 2015 budget in March.
It will help communities deal with extreme weather events, such as
floods, drought, heat waves, and wildfires, according to the White
House. Such disasters include Superstorm Sandy in 2012; the April
2011 tornado outbreak in Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern
United States; and California wildfires in October 2007.
Funds would be used to research how to better prepare for climate
change-related effects like rising sea levels and extreme
temperatures and encourage local initiatives. Other investments
would include "breakthrough technologies and resilient
infrastructure" such as building sea walls and more resilient
electricity delivery systems to protect vulnerable cities and towns.
[to top of second column]
The concept of the fund is based on a recommendation made in
December 2012 by the think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).
CAP founder John Podesta is a former chief of staff to President
Bill Clinton. Podesta returned to the White House in December as a
senior adviser to Obama.
"Every dollar spent on resilience will save federal taxpayers $4 in
lower disaster recovery costs," Daniel Weiss, CAP's director of
climate strategy, said on Friday, citing a study by the
organization. "Now it's up to Congress to make this essential
preparedness fund into a reality."
CAP's proposal, called the community resilience fund, would direct
the president to appoint a bipartisan panel to design the fund and
recommend ways to pay for it.
Nancy Sutley, the director of the White House's Council for
Environmental Quality, said on Friday that Obama will use the
California drought to highlight the importance of the climate
"This continues to demonstrate the continuing need to focus on
resiliency, on reducing risks and vulnerabilities in light of the
changing climate," said Sutley, whose last day at the CEQ was
Friday. Sutley plans to return to her home state of California this
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Ros Krasny and Richard
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.