Washington Insider -- Thursday

Military Cost of Climate Change

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Kudlow Reiterates Pelosi Key for USMCA Submission Timing

The statement made by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer previously that the administration will not send the implementing language to Congress for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says to do so still stands, according to National Economic Council (NEC) Director Larry Kudlow.

In an interview Tuesday, Kudlow said, “Lighthizer has said that we will submit formal legislation when she gives the green light on the vote.” Kudlow also spoke positively about Pelosi’s efforts so far to work with the administration on concerns Democrats have with the trade deal. "I think it will happen sometime this summer, hopefully," Kudlow said. "It could stretch onto the autumn but I think it will be sooner than that. It is up to her, not me."

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said while he would like to see the USMCA voted on before the August congressional recess, he told reporters Tuesday that he is okay with a vote coming in the fall. He said that whenever the House sends the legislation to implement the language to the Senate, they will pass it easily.

China Warns Exporting Countries to Follow Rules On Meat Shipments

Countries shipping meat to China need to comply with rules on those shipments, according to a session held in Beijing with representatives from around 30 nations and the Import and Export Food Safety Bureau that is under China’s General Administration of Customs, Reuters reports.

A Chinese official addressed issues related to ractopamine, a feed additive banned in China but used in the U.S. and some other countries, signatures on documents that do not match stamps on documents and the use of unofficial email accounts.

The report indicated the basic message from the Chinese officials was that if companies have not had issues shipping to China, they need to make sure that continues. And for those that have had issues, the report said the signal was that they need to correct them.

This is a potential key situation with China expected to see rising imports of animal protein ahead as it meets domestic needs in the wake of reduced pork supplies due to African swine fever.

Washington Insider: Military Cost of Climate Change

Bloomberg is reporting this week that the Congress may be plunging deeper into the thicket of spelling out future implications of climate change for military spending. The military already knows it faces increasing vulnerabilities from a warming planet, the report says.

But, what it doesn’t have is a price tag for replacing buildings, airfields, and other structures vulnerable to “changing future conditions.” So, as the House begins to move its Defense spending bill this week and it is considering a requirement that DoD to calculate the replacement value for its sites, including detailed cost estimates for facilities in poor condition and sited in coastal or hurricane-prone areas.

Bloomberg says some lawmakers want to include such a requirement in next year’s defense authorization measure. “We should put a price tag on it because a price tag helps to focus the mind on the cost of doing nothing,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said, “even if the bigger issue is, of course, that we should be doing something to address climate change broadly.”

Having a price tag is “important information to know,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., an energy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He noted that the hefty costs of recent storms “have been a pretty prominent part of our discussion both in the disaster relief package as well as the Defense authorization act” that recently passed the Senate. “But I think it would be irresponsible not to consider in that same analysis what the costs of mitigating” future impacts from severe weather on military installations, he said.

Not all Republicans see the issue that way, Bloomberg says.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said Democrats may succeed in putting price-tag language in the House version of the Defense bill. But doing so could set up a showdown with many Senate Republicans who will resist putting too much of a climate spin on the measure, he said.

“The House is going to go their own way on that; it will probably be a very different bill than what the Senate marked up and we’ll have to figure out the differences in conference” when the two versions are reconciled, Thune said. “But I would say there’s probably not a high appetite on our side for litigating climate change in a national security bill.”

House Democrats are readying several amendments to further strengthen DoD’s reviews of its vulnerability to climate impacts and include one that would require DoD to provide a line item in its annual budget for mitigating and adapting to climate vulnerabilities.

The Senate passed a defense authorization bill June 27 that would direct DoD to revamp its United Facilities Criteria, a sort of handbook for facilities design, to assess extreme weather risks and ensure its planning incorporates various weather and related projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies.

Protecting the nation’s infrastructure from climate impacts has been a less fractious issue on Capitol Hill than the underlying climate challenge. Even Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who has doubted for years whether humans significantly impact the climate, says he’s not opposed to the military considering climate vulnerabilities, noting that previous Defense bills have directed it to do so. Among lawmakers, interest is especially strong with those representing coastal areas that have been repeatedly battered by severe storms over the last decade.

Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb declined to comment on the Defense authorization legislation but said the department already considers climate vulnerability in its planning and decisions.

The department also considers resilience in its installation planning and basing processes and seeks to address “environmental vulnerabilities” in an array of decisions and planning from design and construction standards to the protection of utility systems and service and emergency management operations, she said.

Of 18 Navy installations, 16 face both current and potential flooding risks, Bloomberg said, highlighting case of Langley-Eustis in Virginia, an air base that has seen 14 inches of sea level rise since 1930 and today faces “more frequent and severe” flooding.

The department’s efforts to tackle the challenge, however, have drawn mixed reviews from the Government Accountability Office.

While DoD has recognized climate change as a threat to operations and installations since 2010, its assessments of its climate risks has “relied on past experiences rather than an analysis of future vulnerabilities based on climate projections,” according to a June 2019 GAO study.

There is still a strong administration tilt against prominent federal analysis of potential or past changes in the climate. However, in programs or policies that concern natural resources and/or infrastructure, there also seems to be growing awareness that natural threats are growing — and deserve more specific recognition. How that is defined and interpreted will be widely important to producers and should be watched closely as it evolves, Washington Insider believes.

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