ASAP’s 2022 Policy Priorities

Introduction

American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) is the professional home for close to 1,000 individuals and over 45 organizations – collectively employing over 100,000 workers – across North America. ASAP members represent all sectors of society and dozens of industries. In the past year, ASAP members have seen increased awareness of climate impacts and the need for adaptation, more established standards for climate risk disclosure, and increased attention to the inaccessibility of government funds for adaptation. The coming year offers a rare opportunity for lawmakers to intentionally invest in just and equitable climate adaptation and resilience policies and programs. In order to seize this window of opportunity and ensure public programs and resources address critical climate adaptation needs, ASAP recommends pursuing the following priorities at all levels of government: 

ASAP’s 2022 Policy Priorities are:

  1. Establish standards for the use of best available climate data and mandate use of future climate projections, whenever possible. 
  2. Prioritize justice and equity in all aspects of climate resilience investments.
  3. Require all physical and social infrastructure decisions to consider future climate conditions.
  4. Preserve, restore, and manage natural systems for climate resilience.
  5. Invest in defining, developing, and training the climate change adaptation and climate resilience workforce.
  6. Establish government-wide coordination and lasting authority to enact, act on, and evaluate progress on climate resilience priorities. 

ASAP members urge policymakers at all scales – local, state, provincial, regional, and national – to act swiftly and resolutely to stop the root causes of climate change, enable adaptation to irreversible climate impacts, and center the experiences and needs of people and communities most impacted* in climate action. Focusing on the priorities listed above will enable members to undertake effective and just climate change adaptation and climate resilience work and create the conditions for communities, ecosystems, and economies to transform into thriving systems that sustainably support lives and livelihoods. 

Over the course of 2022, members of ASAP’s Policy Practice Group are convening monthly to deeply explore innovative policy solutions aligned with each of these priorities and document specific policy recommendations that can be implemented on the local, state/provincial, and national levels. This blog series will highlight the recommendations. We encourage all adaptation professionals and climate policy professionals to draw inspiration from this content for their own work and share widely. Learn more about ASAP’s Policy Practice Group here.

*People and communities most impacted by climate change include those that are both highly exposed to climate risks because of the places they live and have fewer resources, capacity, safety nets, or political power to respond to those risks because of widespread discrimination, promoted by histories of colonialism, white supremacy, domination of nature, and economic exploitation. They include Black people, Indigenous Peoples, people of color, people with low incomes and from low-income backgrounds as well as other individuals and communities such as immigrants, those at-risk of displacement, old and young people, people experiencing homelessness, outdoor workers, incarcerated people, renters, people with disabilities, and chronically ill or hospitalized people. 

1. Establish standards for climate data and require use of future climate information.

Using locally relevant climate data and information and considering the full range of possible climate outcomes is foundational for clearly understanding climate risk, identifying effective adaptation actions, and avoiding maladaptation. It is critical to establish mandates requiring that future climate information be integrated into all decisions including planning, investments, and government program requirements. This means that policymakers must:

  • Allocate adequate resources to existing programs that provide locally-relevant climate data, information, and technical assistance. These programs support actors across all sectors and scales, providing both data and information as well as technical assistance and services to apply it in decision-making processes and take action. 
  • Take legal and policy action to establish standards for disseminating and using future climate data and information. This includes requiring the use of future climate information in government programs and investments and in updates to standards and codes as well as requiring climate risk and vulnerability assessments.

2. Prioritize justice and equity in all aspects of climate resilience investment.

Every climate resilience investment decision affects justice and equity. Policymakers must put in place mechanisms to assess climate resilience investment decisions to ensure they prioritize justice and equity. This means that policymakers must:

  • Acknowledge the root causes of inequitably distributed climate impacts, namely systemic oppression and centuries of unequal investment. Address injustices, especially racial and economic injustices, at their core whenever possible to remove these barriers and create the conditions needed for individuals, communities, and systems to be able to adapt and transform. Address past injustices by reallocating money to those impacted by unjust systems in the past and present.
  • Create dedicated funding streams for the people and communities most impacted by climate change* and evaluate and eliminate challenges they face for accessing existing resources and services.
  • Track and report where climate resilience investments are being made and create mechanisms to assess who is benefitting from these investments.
  • Commit to fair decision-making processes by centering the needs and experiences of those most impacted by climate change* in policies and programs. Ensure that all individuals and communities have power in the processes and decisions that may affect them. Support people, especially Indigenous Peoples’, self-determination, access to traditional lands, and ability to move out of harm’s way if – and how – they choose.

3. Require all physical and social infrastructure decisions to consider future climate conditions.

As more public funds become available for physical and social infrastructure projects to build climate resilience, we need a much stronger policy framework to ensure project prioritization, planning, siting, design, construction, and maintenance address future climate conditions as well as equity and justice. Infrastructure unable to withstand current or future hazards inhibits the well-being of people, threatens our economy, and damages the health of our natural environment. Infrastructure in places highly exposed to climate risks may be better relocated elsewhere. Investments that appear to reduce vulnerability to climate change may actually do the opposite without careful consideration of the impacts to all populations and systems. To address these issues, governments should:

  • Require public investments in infrastructure to be designed to withstand future climate conditions, benefit first and foremost communities most impacted by climate change*, incorporate nature-based solutions, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Create incentives to ensure private sector investments in infrastructure do the same. 
  • Integrate current and future climate information into building codes and standards.
  • Reduce barriers to communities for using existing and new public and private funding and finance mechanisms to build new – and retrofit existing – climate resilience infrastructure.

4. Heal and protect nature to build climate resilience.

Nature has intrinsic value for millions of species, provides irreplaceable protection against climate impacts, and provides the food, water, and materials necessary to sustain life, economies, and society. Natural systems are threatened by a myriad of hazards, including climate change. Policies should work to heal and protect nature by:

  • Supporting the use of ecosystem best management practices and indigenous land stewardship practices proven to improve ecological integrity, biodiversity, language, health, food security, and livelihoods. This includes setting standards for implementing these practices on public lands and incentives for implementing these practices on private lands.
  • Strengthening policies and laws that preserve and restore natural systems, improving nature’s ability to adapt to climate change, sequester carbon, and provide for human needs.
  • Respectfully engaging with – and deferring to – indigenous land stewards when establishing policies and programs and ensuring policies maintain and restore indigenous rights and authority. 

5. Invest in defining, developing, and training the climate change adaptation and climate resilience workforce.

Climate change adaptation and climate resilience is a rapidly growing area of employment. Jobs span a large number of industries in every sector. In order to ensure equitable access to adaptation and resilience jobs, quality job performance, and consistent adaptation and resilience outcomes from work performed, governments need to collaborate with industry, labor, and education stakeholders to:

  • Understand the climate change adaptation and climate resilience workforce. This requires assessing how climate change adaptation and climate resilience work aligns with existing occupation classifications, connecting with employers to study workforce needs and shortages, articulating adaptation and resilience career pathways, cultivating a shared identity for workers, and ensuring equitable access to entry-level and career-building opportunities.
  • Invest in — and increase consistency of — education and training for climate change adaptation and climate resilience workers. This includes identifying skills and competencies, developing targeted training and apprenticeship programs, increasing incentives for uptake of existing education products, and developing consistent evaluation standards for all education products. 
  • Ensure investments in worker education, training, and solutions prioritize those who are most climate-impacted to become a part of the climate change adaptation and climate resilience workforce, support their development as leaders, and are equally available irrespective of immigration status. Ensure equitable access to entry-level and career-building opportunities.

6.   Establish government-wide coordination and lasting authority to enact, act on, and evaluate progress on climate resilience priorities. 

Effective and efficient climate change adaptation and climate resilience measures require multi-scale coordination and leadership to set shared vision and priorities as well as transparent evaluation of progress. To achieve this, governments need to: 

  • Create bodies to coordinate across departments within the government and across scales of governance. Establish leadership positions in these bodies (e.g. Chief Resilience Officer) and ensure these bodies have appropriate resources to carry out their missions. 
  • Establish lasting authority and good governance in public climate change adaptation and climate resilience programs to enable long-term support and investment for beneficiaries and to provide mechanisms for input or co-creation with beneficiaries.
  • Establish mechanisms to transparently monitor and report on results to enable continuous improvement and sharing of lessons learned across contexts and scales.