The U.S. Office of Climate Change and Health Equity will be charged with protecting vulnerable communities from climate-driven disasters. Responding to President Joe Biden’s executive order on climate change, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the new office Monday.

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“History will judge us for the actions we take today to protect our world and our health from climate change,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement released Monday. “The consequences for our inaction are real and worsening. We’ve always known that health is at the center of climate change, and now we’re going to double-down on a necessity: fighting climate change in order to help protect public health in our communities.”

Related: Evacuations ordered as Caldor Fire moves toward Lake Tahoe

OCCHE plans to play a pivotal role in protecting health both in the U.S. and abroad. Its mandate includes identifying communities that face disproportionate exposure to climate hazards and addressing their health disparities. The office will promote research on the public health benefits of climate actions and translate that research for the public. OCCHE will also lend its expertise to the White House and federal agencies working on climate change and health equity.

With the Caldor Fire still raging in the west and Hurricane Ida’s trail of ruin in the east, help for those with few resources cannot come soon enough. “Climate change is turbo-charging the horrific wildfires, extreme heat, and devastating floods that are killing people and making millions more sick from exposure to unhealthy smoke, mold and debilitating heat,” said National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy in a statement. “The new HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is fulfilling President Biden’s vision to bring America’s world-class medical community into the fight against climate change—a fight for our health that ensures no community is left behind.”

Via Department of Health and Human Services

Lead image via Gage Skidmore