Readout: OSTP, CEQ, and CPO Host Roundtables on Nature-based Solutions
On April 22, 2022, President Biden issued Executive Order 14072 on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies. This Executive Order recognized the critical role that nature plays in expanding the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic and bold efforts to tackle the climate crisis, make our nation more resilient to extreme weather, and strengthen local economies. For example, healthy forests reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, clean our air, and act as a carbon sink. Urban forests can provide much needed respite from intense heat, reduce cooling costs, and provide jobs to the local community. Coastal marshes and dunes can reduce storm surge and slow flooding. These and other nature-based solutions are critical to addressing the crises of climate change and nature loss.
In the Executive Order, the President called for the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Office of Domestic Climate Policy (CPO), in consultation with federal agencies, to submit a report to the National Climate Task Force, identifying key opportunities for greater deployment of nature-based solutions across the federal government through policy, guidance, and program changes that will reduce emissions and build resilience.
Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, state and local governments, private companies, academia, and non-governmental organizations have led the way in advancing nature-based solutions, and have important perspectives on how more adoption can be achieved. To learn from the experience of these groups and ensure their voices were heard, OSTP, CEQ, and CPO held a Tribal Consultation and four stakeholder roundtable sessions in July and August 2022. This document provides a summary of the engagement period and the themes of comments we received.
Tribal Consultation: The Tribal Consultation was held on August 15, 2022. The Tribal Consultation lasted one hour and 26 Tribal Leaders attended, in addition to federal officials from OSTP, CEQ, CPO, and several other federal agencies. Feedback shared during the Tribal Consultation focused on a need for federal agencies to: 1) Increase Tribal administrative workforce capacity to better manage the nature-based solutions funding process, including potential self-governance compacts with government agencies; 2) Better liaise between local, non-Tribal governments and Tribal communities to arbitrate zoning and jurisdictional issues that inhibit nature-based solutions; 3) Fund training centers for Tribal communities to share experience on the use of nature-based solutions including prescribed fires, watershed management for flood risk reduction and hybrid solutions (e.g. prescribed and modern firefighting techniques) with federal and other partners ; 4) Provide project management and technical assistance with the help of regional Tribal liaisons to make navigation of federal support for nature-based solutions easier, and 5) Improve guidance for considering of diverse benefits in benefit-cost analyses, especially with regard to benefits with cultural and religious significance.
Multi-Sector Roundtables: Multi-sector roundtables were held on July 29 and August 4, 2022 with representatives from state and local governments; academic experts in economics, fisheries, landscape and urban design, natural resource management, and engineering; environmental, health, justice, climate, and non-governmental organizations; and philanthropic organizations. Each roundtable lasted one hour. The July 29 roundtable had 9 participants, and the August 4 roundtable had 12 participants.
The feedback received was strongly supportive of increased adoption of nature-based solutions and encouraged bold action. Participants called for federal agencies to 1) Ease deployment of nature-based solutions by streamlining the permitting process and reducing administrative burdens on partners applying for support of nature-based solutions; 2) Recognize the multi-faceted nature of nature-based solutions and reduce siloing of funding support, technical expertise and guidance, and policies addressing nature-based solutions; 3) Strengthen partner and federal workforce capacity by supporting schools and universities to develop new education curriculum, and encouraging development of certification programs and workforce development initiatives that address all skill sets needed, including those for budget officers, general counsels and other often overlooked positions; 4) Provide stronger incentives for the adoption of nature-based solutions by integrating support for them into existing federal programs focused on infrastructure, environmental justice, disaster response, housing, flood management and others; 5) Update guidance on the quantification of benefits and costs from nature-based solutions to better support decision-making that considers these options.
Private Sector Roundtable: A private sector roundtable was held on August 2, 2022 with representatives from engineering and environmental consulting that commonly use nature-based solutions. The private sector roundtable lasted one-hour and 11 individuals participated.
The private company representatives were enthusiastic about the increased attention to nature-based solutions and welcomed ambitious federal action. A few points raised during this roundtable echoed the main themes from the multi-disciplinary roundtables, including the need for federal agencies to: 1) Make deployment easier by aligning and simplifying federal budgeting, permitting, and procurement processes, allowing private entities to clear the backlog of government-sponsored projects, and by better incorporating nature-based solutions into design guidelines and standards, 2) Strengthen partner and federal capacity through education, certification, and workforce development programs that include maintenance skillsets and attract young people and other labor markets through internships, visas, and workforce reentry programs; 3) Facilitate greater interagency partnership in both funding and implementation of nature-based solutions by incorporating them into competitive federal grant funding, and 4) Increase public-private partnerships by promoting the cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions through collaboration with economists and business leaders, schools, and students.
Environmental Justice Roundtable: An environmental justice roundtable was held on August 19, 2022. This roundtable lasted one hour and 8 individuals participated.
The representatives that joined from environmental justice organizations were supportive of the deployment of nature-based solutions and spoke extensively on incorporating equity into these solutions. Several main themes were shared during the roundtable, including the need for federal agencies to 1) Make adoption of nature-based solutions easier by waiving matching funds policies for disadvantaged communities, streamlining grant application processes, simplifying the NEPA evaluation and compliance process, and creating resilience hubs to facilitate the exchange of ideas between grassroots coalitions; 2) Foster working relationships between the federal government and grassroots coalitions by reducing the siloing of knowledge on nature-based solutions, ensuring the continuity of program support between administrations, and bolstering on-the-ground presence in communities; 3) Provide technical assistance and nature-based solutions workforce development for members of disadvantaged communities and support paid student internships through local and community colleges; and 4) Elevate nature-based solutions in environmental education by supporting K-12 STEM education and youth empowerment, expanding grants for teachers to collaborate with scientists in the classroom, inspiring youth by making environmental science a more interactive and visible component of learning, and creating collaborations between government agencies and schools to engage students in nature-based solutions work.
Next Steps: The feedback from these roundtables will inform the development of the nature-based solutions report responsive to EO 14072. OSTP, CEQ, and CPO are actively developing this report in collaboration with several Federal Departments and Agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and State, and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of Management and Budget, the United States Global Change Research Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and AmeriCorps. The report is expected to be delivered to the National Climate Task Force this fall. More information on White House nature efforts can be found here or by emailing email@example.com.