Environment Program gathers partners engaged in climate adaptation work
Members of The Kresge Foundation’s Environment Program team meet with grant recipients and other partners working on climate-change adaptation this week in Portland, Ore.
Meant to share knowledge about adaptation projects, the workshop is the first time organizations and researchers funded through Kresge’s adaptation portfolio have come together to review progress and challenges. Around 80 people are expected to take part.
“Our grantees’ projects are all very different,” says Kresge’s John Nordgren. “They’re working at different scales and in very different places – from the arid Southwest, where the concerns are about water supply, to coastal areas where the focus is sea-level rise and flooding. But there’s a commonality.”
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That common thread is a comprehensive approach to building the resilience of human and ecological communities in the face of climate change.
Central to Kresge’s adaptation grantmaking, this approach encourages responses to climate change that integrate typically discrete disciplines like land-use management, transportation, energy planning, and hazard mitigation. By considering the human and natural environments side by side, that approach also raises the visibility of “green” solutions to problems like more intense weather.
“That may mean restoring the coastline instead of building more seawalls or, in an urban setting, planting green roofs to literally lower the temperature instead of investing in cooling centers and air conditioners for people to escape dangerous heat,” says Nordgren, a senior program officer. “Green solutions can be less expensive and more flexible than building infrastructure and have other benefits like water filtration and habitat conservation. But if they’re not considering the natural environment, the people doing the planning may not think about them.”
In addition to taking stock of participant-led climate-change adaptation projects, the workshop will include sessions on new tools and resources being employed in the still-young field of climate-change adaptation.
Participants will also discuss what’s needed to foster adaptation work in places that have not yet begun preparing for climate change; and ways they may be able to support one another and the field.
Ron Sims, former county executive in Washington state’s King County and deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2009 to 2011, will deliver a keynote address.
“Ron offers an example of a metropolitan leader who’s successfully and proactively integrated planning for water, transit, housing and other systems and infused cross-sector planning with ideas about sustainability,” says Nordgren.
In addition to providing an opportunity for Kresge partners to share experiences and learn from one another, the workshop should yield information that will be valuable to others working on adaptation issues. The planning team expects to produce a white paper, which will be shared with the field.
The workshop is part of a longer-term effort Kresge’s Environment Program team is undertaking to evaluate alternate approaches to planning and implementing climate-adaptation activities.
“In particular, we’re interested in working with communities to more fully integrate their climate-change mitigation and adaptation activities,” says Kresge’s Lois DeBacker, who leads the environment team. “Movement away from dependence on fossil fuels and toward carbon neutrality is an important element of a comprehensive resilience agenda, and we want to be supportive of practitioners at the community level who are pursuing that goal.”