Sustainability Program to Support City Climate Adaptation Efforts

March 4, 2013

By Tammy Zborel

Cities across the country are facing a new reality as a result of changes in climate and an increase in extreme weather events. Wildfires, extreme heat, drought, floods, powerful storms, and rising sea levels have in recent years demonstrated the vulnerability of communities, regardless of geography. The impacts from these events directly and significantly affect cities, their communities, infrastructure, economies, environments, public health, public safety and a host of other critical areas.

In order to equip city leaders with the best information, tools and resources to take informed and timely action in preparing for and responding to climate impacts, NLC’s Sustainability Program has committed to making climate adaptation and resilience a priority area in 2013.

As a first step, NLC hosted an informal half-day roundtable discussion on February 27, bringing together researchers, advocates, non-profits, national associations and city leaders. The purpose of the discussion was to share information regarding current conditions on the ground, barriers to action and opportunities for increased research and support for local governments.

Though a varied set of stakeholders, several common themes emerged throughout the conversation. The ability to frame and effectively communicate messages associated with climate adaptation, extreme weather events, disaster preparedness and resiliency were cited as both a central challenge and a necessary element of all efforts to elicit widespread engagement on the issues. Another theme that emerged dealt with the importance of engaging a range of stakeholders - from internal operations, bringing together multiple city departments and functions, to external partnerships including those with the private sector, community groups, universities and others. Finally, it was acknowledged that while the onus for action will largely be on localities, meaningful solutions will ultimately require regional approaches and collaboration – across cities, counties, regions and states.

Moving forward, NLC will continue to seek opportunities to gather feedback and information from city leaders and experts in the field as we develop and seek to implement appropriate strategies to support city efforts. On Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at NLC's Congressional Cities Conference in Washington, D.C. participants will have the opportunity to hear from city and federal leaders at a workshop session titled "Extreme Weather Events: Preparing Cities, Engaging Leaders." The Sustainability Program continues to seek feedback from local leaders via this Climate Adaptation Feedback Form and encourage cities to send questions, ideas or recommendations to us directly at sustainability@nlc.org.