I caught up with my guest, the US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, just after he left the stage at the Climate Action Conference in DC. This was a two day UN backed conference with representatives from local and national governments, the business sector, civil society, NGOs and philanthropies gathered to discuss strategies to implement the Paris Climate Agreement.

USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture/USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Some quick background: the cornerstone of the Paris Agreement are a set of commitments by each government to take certain actions or meet specific goals, and taken together these pledges can meaningfully alter the current climate change trajectory.  That is, of course, if these commitments and pledges are actually implemented. The point of this conference was to bring together stakeholders from disparate sectors to make the commitments of the Paris Accord a reality.

Enter the US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. He details the specific actions that USDA is taking to implement the US government’s commitments at Paris. And those are technically interesting, but what I found enlightening in his comments is that it suggests there is a bureaucratic shift underway at USDA to mainstream climate imperatives throughout the department.

This shift at USDA is likely one manifestation of a trend we are seeing throughout the US government in which the imperatives of confronting climate change are being mainstreamed throughout the whole of government. It’s not just the EPA or department of energy or interior. Rather, every branch of government is taking this on in their own differentiated way. And that is, I think, a pretty interesting shift that we are living through.

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