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Trump Disbands Federal Climate Resilience Panel

By Jan Lee

A panel that was created by the U.S. Commerce Dept. under former President Obama to help increase climate resilience in cities has been dissolved by the Trump administration. The Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, which was initiated following the infrastructure damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2015, announced its final meeting on Monday.

The Community Resilience Panel's job was to explore ways that communities could address climate impacts. Its membership included six federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Economic Resilience and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which oversaw the panel's operations. Over the past two years it had developed a broad range of expertise that allowed it to channel into committees focusing on buildings and facilities, water and wastewater, energy and other areas relating to community and infrastructure resilience.

But it wasn't solely attended by federal representatives. In April, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine became the first non-federal sponsor, opening the door wider to recognition by the private sector. The Academies' participation signaled a growing recognition of the potential for public-private discussion on climate impact mitigation. Its own work on climate resilience resulted in the founding of the Resilient America Roundtable and a pilot program that it started in 2014, that works directly with communities impacted by climate change.

In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is studying ways that it can "provide greater support to community resilience locally and through national policies" had announced it had planned to participate.

One of the panel's projects this year was a targeted comparison of public and private approaches to measuring resilience in communities. The project was an attempt to bring together broad knowledge in how climate impacts could be addressed, and the methods that have been developed in areas at the forefront of climate impacts, such communities in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was also studying efforts by private organizations like the Zurich Foundation, Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities and the Nature Conservancy to measure climate impacts to "[identify] common challenges or research needs related to measuring resilience [and discuss] applications for these or other approaches at the community level."

According to NIST, the decision to disband the panel was made internally. NIST said it "conducted an assessment of the Panel and its mission and determined that, while the Panel has made progress on achieving its first goal of promoting collaboration among stakeholders, the second goal of considering standards and best practices has been much more challenging. NIST has therefore decided to transition to a national workshop as a more effective and efficient way to convene stakeholders and advance community resilience."

The agency said it plans to launch the anticipated workshop in the fall 2018 and that it will be continuing the panel's mission to identify and determine best-case methods for addressing climate impacts.

It did not state why it would take a year to initiate a workshop on issues that the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division has stated requires "urgent action."


Flickr image: Alec Perkins 



Jan Lee headshot

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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