Apr 11, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden administration announces $46M in climate funding for Indigenous communities

Photo of Deb Haaland speaking from a podium with a mosaic of Zoom video boxes showing different faces behind her
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at a Tribal Nations Summit in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15, 2021. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Interior Department announced Monday it's investing $46 million to address the impacts of climate change in Indigenous communities.

Why it matters: Researchers have found that the near-total loss of historical lands leaves Indigenous people in the U.S. more vulnerable to climate change. Its disproportionate impact, including reduced access to traditional foods, decreased water quality and exposure to health hazards, severely exacerbates socioeconomic inequities.

Details: The new funding, made available through President Biden's infrastructure package, will be available for efforts that include ...

  • Initiatives that address and strengthen climate resilience and adaptation
  • Ocean and coastal management
  • Community-driven relocation

What she's saying: "As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, Indigenous communities are facing unique climate-related challenges that pose existential threats to Tribal economies, infrastructure, lives and livelihoods," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

  • "Coastal communities are facing flooding, erosion, permafrost subsidence, sea level rise, and storm surges, while inland communities are facing worsening drought and extreme heat," she added.
  • The federal government's investments "will help bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, and provide support needed for climate-related community-driven relocation and adaptation."

The big picture: 40% of federally recognized U.S. tribes live in Alaska Native communities, where the accelerated rate of rising temperatures, melting sea ice and thawing permafrost have taken a toll on critical infrastructure and traditions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  • Some coastal communities have been forced to relocate to higher ground, while others have had to adjust to habitat degradation and extreme changes in ecosystems.
  • Indigenous people have led the way in developing pathways for climate resilience, something the Interior acknowledged in its funding announcement.
  • Many experts emphasize that centering Indigenous climate knowledge and adaptation plans is the key to climate justice.

Interior is accepting proposals from Tribes who wish to receive the funding.

Worth noting: Biden's infrastructure law allocates a total of $466 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs over five years, including $216 million for climate resilience programs.

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