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More Cities Identifying Climate Risk and Building Resilience


By Jamie Carson

The corporate sector is playing a significant role in helping cities build resilience.

There is reasonable concern for cities to be considering this risk, which includes climate stressors such as wildfire, flood and sea level rise, said AECOM Director of Sustainable Development Claire Bonham-Carter on Feb. 25 during the panel “Identifying Climate Risk and Building Resilience” at the Climate Leadership Conference.

According to a recent CDP poll of 110 cities around the world, 98 percent of cities are reporting risk from climate change.

“These cities are reporting this risk now, not in the future,” Bonham-Carter emphasized.

The CDP report, "Wealthier, Healthier Cities," launched in London June 2013 and performed a deep dive into the cascading consequences of climate-related change and variability. The report’s data analysis and informational design were led by AECOM, and it was also co-sponsored by Autodesk and Jones Lang LaSalle.

It’s also important to note that 71 percent of cities are putting resilience plans in place to some extent, Bonham-Carter said.

Alan Cohn, director of climate and water quality for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said NYC has been planning for climate–as a stressor to its watershed and wastewater system–since 2004. In the region, $300 million in investments could protect $2.5 billion in wastewater assets from repeated flooding losses.

“There is no one-size-fits-all plan when you are talking about (climate) adaptation,” Cohn said. Considering critical thresholds for practical application is crucial – “What is the level of risk you are willing to accept?”

To do this, Cohn highlighted the benefit of collaborating with the academic and scientific communities.

“It is never going to be perfect; choose something, go with it, conduct assessment, and find shovel-ready projects to start preparing our cities,” Cohn said.

On the other side of the U.S., the state of California recently released its "Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk" report that covers nine chapters–agriculture; biodiversity and habitat; emergency management; energy; forestry; oceans and coastal ecosystems and resources; public health; transportation; and water.

California aims to be sophisticated in communicating climate risk and works with a wide range of departments across the state, said Ann Chan, deputy secretary for climate change and energy, California Natural Resources Agency. Chan also recommended selectively choosing vocabulary that is intuitive and speaks to a broader audience.

“In government, we have always been frustrated by silos, and climate is a way to bridge the silos,” she said. “However, government can not do this alone; the magnitude of events that are occurring will require all sectors to come together to tackle the issue.”

Zurich-based Swiss Re and U.S.-based The Nature Conservancy, among other joint-industry leaders, have recently partnered on "The Case for Green Infrastructure," which assesses the costs and performance of how natural infrastructure–such as forests and wetlands–can increase business resilience.

“If we model the effectiveness of, for example, wetlands in protecting what lies behind them, we can put a value on the wetland,” said Mark Way, head sustainability, Americas, and director, group risk management, Swiss Re.  “What we cannot yet do is to calculate the full value that that area has to the local community beyond it being a buffer to severe weather.”

Cities and businesses will increasingly rely on balancing green (natural) and gray (concrete) infrastructure to increase resilience as natural events continue to grow in frequency, said Michelle Lapinski, senior advisor, valuing nature, The Nature Conservancy. From the business perspective, Lapinski points to the recently launched Natural Capital Business Hub as a look at private-sector led initiatives to safeguard natural assets.

In a panel later in the afternoon of Feb. 25, “Communicating Climate, Targeting Your Audience,” panel moderator, Anne Kelly, Ceres director of public policy, echoed the sentiment of the earlier panel. She raised her hand and counted three important points in communicating about climate change in communities: “Simple message. Repeat often. Credible messenger.”

The Climate Leadership Conference (#TheCLC on social media) was held this year in San Diego, Feb. 24-26, and was co-sponsored by the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsThe Climate Registry, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At the event, several companies were recognized with Climate Leadership Awards to help incentivize exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change.

About the author: Jamie Carson is founder and director of C.C. Global – an environment, resilience & sustainability communications firm that works with local and global partners to advance cooperation, education and outreach in the sector. To that end, C.C. Global has created a track record of connecting dots to new opportunities, all while providing strategic communications services that support your organization’s mission and valuable team. Besides working as a communications support team, C.C. Global reinvests in social enterprise initiatives such as Envirorun, a run, networking and speaker opportunity for the community, and is in the process of launching more in 2014. C.C. Global was a Marketing Partner of the 2014 Climate Leadership Conference. Follow updates on Twitter @ccglobalUS and Facebook at C.C. Global.

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