Climate Leaders Collaboration
In 2013 EPA New England held a climate leaders summit. A key outgrowth of that summit was the formation of a Climate Leaders Steering Committee and six Action Plan Teams to help New England communities achieve climate resilience. A report on the summit was published in 2014. Below are the executive summary and a link to the full report.
Climate Leaders Executive Summary
On November 8, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Regional Office convened an invitational Climate Leaders Summit ("the Summit") at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. The 140 attendees from government agencies, businesses and regional and non-profit organizations spent the day discussing how we, the regional climate leaders, could launch collaborative actions to achieve a more climate-resilient New England. In particular we asked ourselves what we can do to assist New England municipalities in their efforts to adapt to climate change. This regional effort aligns with both President Obama's June 2013 Climate Action Plan speech that included an instruction to the federal government to work on climate resilience, and in his November 1, 2013 Executive Order 13653 "Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change" he underscored that managing the risks of climate change requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation and coordinated planning - the task at hand for the summit in order to support local resilience. Also on November 1, 2013 each federal agency's adaptation plan was released for public comment including EPA New England's assessment of the impacts of climate on our core mission and steps EPA is taking to adapt to those impacts.
The impetus for this Summit was a direct result of the changes New England has been experiencing, including an increase in annual temperatures by 2 degrees F and in winter 4 degrees; a 74% increase in extreme weather events since 1950 including tropical storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012; sea level rise that is expected to increase from 30-79 inches by 2100 and the impacts of these changes including – heat waves, species migrations, flooding, and storm surge. Only about ten percent of the New England communities have begun to address these impacts with adaptation plans, but many more want to address these threats.
EPA developed the design and focus for the Summit in consultation with an External Workgroup. Six key actions on the path to resiliency for communities were identified:
- Acquire local level data and information on current and future community climate change impacts.
- Understand the risk to your community by integrating impact information and vulnerability assessments into your existing planning processes.
- Increase communication on impacts and reasons to act now, customize the information for your community, engage and educate both citizens and decision-makers.
- Set community-wide priority actions and set realistic goals.
- Coordinate with regional, state, and federal agencies.
- Identify priority actions for resiliency and integrate them into existing community planning processes.
These subject areas, as well as experiences voiced by the morning panelists from Cambridge, MA; Waterbury, VT; Keene, NH and Groton, CT, were the basis of the morning breakout groups and subsequent commitments made to address the needs of local communities. As outcomes from the Summit, New England leaders committed to work on six specific actions:
- Pilot full vulnerability assessments and resiliency planning in one or two communities in each New England state to establish a regional foundation.
- Convene meetings for state with a cross section of state and federal agencies to coordinate assessment resources
- Integrate adaptation planning into local public health and public safety programs.
- Develop a common data platform for New England
- Develop a multi-level communication initiative: making climate impacts and solutions local and personal
- Convene a public-private workgroup to scope smarter spending on resilient infrastructure