National Adaptation Forum Digests

Monday, May 8: ASAP Member Meeting | Regional Resilience Initiatives | Prize for Progress | Solar + Storage

Tuesday, May 9: Municipal Plenary | Assessment Tools | Community-Defined Thresholds | Community-Led Relocation | Aligning Planning | Collaborative Adaptation | Tribal Vulnerability Assessment | Five Takeaways

Wedesday, May 10: A New Administration | Information Access | Market Finance | Face-to-Face Exchanges | Community-Based Adaptation | Conservation Cooperatives

Thursday, May 11: Practitioner Skills | Environmental Justice | People and Nature | Agriculture | Service Delivery System | Community Organizing

2017 NAF Wraps up!

Monday, May 8

First In-Person ASAP Member Meeting 

By Beth Gibbons, Managing Director, American Society of Adaptation Professionals

Key takeaway: ASAP members bring tremendous leadership, expertise and diversity of knowledge to our growing field.

The first in-person ASAP Member Meeting brought together over 50 ASAP members from across the country to continue building a strong professional membership organization that drives innovation and excellence in the adaptation field. The meeting provided a great opportunity for members to network face-to-face and learn about a range of climate adaptation experiences and expertise. The room was bubbling with enthusiasm and participants were energized by ASAP’s direction and the opportunities for leadership the organization is generating. As the challenges of climate change continue to threaten our built environment, natural resources, and social systems, ASAP’s leadership will be critical for the adaptation field to advance and improve.

Regional Resilience Initiatives Gathering

By Emily Mead, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: All regional resilience efforts—regardless of geographic location—face the same barriers and experience similar moments of success.

In areas where interest in – and understanding of – climate change differ broadly between jurisdictions, a regional approach to resilience can be very effective. This gathering, hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, brought together practitioners working on resilience at the metro-regional scale to discuss updates and lessons learned in advancing their initiatives.

Each group reported progress in identifying local champions and creating a shared vision of success, but identified engaging businesses—beyond funding assistance —as a challenge. At the conclusion of the meeting, the groups expressed an interest in continuing to meet as a way to support each other’s work and share best practices.

2017 Prize for Progress

By Karina French, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities

The American Society of Adaptation Professionals awarded the 2017 Prize for Progress on Monday night, celebrating innovative champions in the adaptation field and highlighting adaptation practices that will be shared over the next three days of the NAF.

The 2017 Prize for Progress was awarded to the City and County of San Francisco for its robust approach to addressing sea level rise in the Bay Area. Through a multi-agency committee led by the Public Utilities Commission, the City of San Francisco created its first sea level rise policy in 2014. Since its adoption, the policy has helped assess the vulnerability of city investments and shaped the direction of several capital projects.

David Behar, Climate Program Director at San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, accepted the award on behalf of the project and praised the collaboration of the team, the leadership of Democratic Mayor Ed Lee, and the opportunity ASAP provided to highlight good work in the field.

ASAP also recognized the runners-up for the 2017 prize for progress: Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for planning for extreme rainfall in the national forest, The Conservation Fund for marsh elevation for climate resiliency at Blackwater NWR, the Menominee Tribal Enterprise for their work on climate-informed restoration, and the Huron River Watershed Council for their Climate Resilient Communities project.

Solar + Battery Storage to Support Community Resilience

By Debra Perry, Program Director, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: The costs of solar and storage are rapidly declining. The technology can be used in many ways to support more resilient communities by improving grid reliability, providing back-up power to critical facilities, and supporting the transition to a clean energy future.

This half-day workshop hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Communities brought together local energy leaders to learn about opportunities to deploy solar and battery storage to support community resilience goals. Participants learned about leading edge work in Duluth, Minnesota, New York City, and San Francisco. National Renewable Energy Lab and Meister Consultants Group introduced the technology and state of the field, and summarized best practices, tools, and resources in resilient solar now available to communities interested in solar and battery storage. Resources from this workshop will be posted online.

Tuesday, May 9

Municipal Plenary

By Beth Gibbons, Managing Director, American Society of Adaptation Professionals

Key takeaway: Cities are leading innovation in the adaptation community by enabling action and embedding adaptation action and knowledge deeply and broadly in the community.

This tremendous panel discussion led by Denise Fairchild of the Emerald Cities Collaborative highlighted the exceptional knowledge and experience of climate adaptation and resilience experts from Baltimore, Berkeley, and Saint Paul. The panel stressed that innovation, embedding, and training are all critical components of building a culture of climate preparedness.

In order to engage in this work, municipalities need to first recognize what needs to be done in the city and then consider how climate change will affect those priorities. The panel acknowledged the importance of consistent administration despite election cycles to help drive community efforts forward. They also emphasized the importance of building relationships between neighborhoods and city government by cultivating a sense of trust, community and engagement.

“I love the challenge of integrating sustainability into the city.”
– Timothy Burroughs,  City of Berkeley, CA

Using Assessment Products and Tools to Inform Local Adaptation Resilience

By Saatvika Rai, University of Toledo, ASAP Member

Key takeaway: Free, useful climate tools are available for agencies at all levels of government and the community at large.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) presented an overview of various freely available climate tools and information platforms created through coordinated efforts across different federal agencies. Calling themselves a “Resilience Enterprise,” USGCRP is taking action to: enhance the transparency, quality, and reliability of their products; gather all federal agency data in one location for better accessibility; and translate scientific and technical information into a more-accessible reading level for broader community engagement.

Their vision is to create a living timestamp of constantly evolving and improving climate data. Some sustained products include the Climate Resilience Toolkit, State Climate Fact Sheets, the Climate Data Initiative, and the Global Change Information System. Some newer tools include PREP (Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness), a public-private collaboration facilitating conversations between the producers and users of data, and Resilience Dialogues, an online platform working directly with communities to identify their vulnerabilities and provide key resources.

USGCRP has also expanded National Climate Assessment reports through in-depth sector chapters that discuss sectoral interdependencies and compounding stressors. The state summaries available on the USGCRP website provide detailed historical and projected climate information, as well as a wide variety of climate indicators. When asked if vulnerable communities were incorporated in their data, USGCRP stated that populations of concern (i.e., communities affected by tribal and environmental justice issues) were addressed throughout their reports, which involve subject area experts on each of the chapter teams.

The session ended with a case study of Broward County, Florida, where these data tools have been used extensively. Local government officials have been able to use this peer-reviewed data as a way to validate ongoing climate events, plan for increased future risks, and build support for cross-sectoral coordination. They praised the tools for providing clear communication through the use of graphics, maps, and statistical data, with easy-to-understand descriptions of key concepts (e.g., urban heat islands) that help government officials communicate with a larger audience.

Weather: A Nuisance to a Problem. Are Community-Defined Critical Thresholds Making Climate Meaningful?

By Emily Mead, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Sustainable Communities

For public, private, and community partners, the weather is simply a nuisance to endure until it suddenly becomes a larger problem. Representatives from the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Engineering for Climate Extremes Partnership, the City of Amarillo, and Massachusetts Audubon discussed the power and the risks of identifying critical thresholds.

Defining thresholds helps ground conversations at the local level and allows multiple stakeholders to identify when a problem exists. Thresholds have the benefit of making complex information easy to digest, acting as popular communication devices, and influencing behavior in a community. However, thresholds do not account for unpredictable extremes, creating a risk that these thresholds can be misleading. Key thresholds are most effective when described in context or when combined with regional trajectories. It’s important to remember that thresholds are only as effective as the action that results from those definitions.

“Through the use of this type of tool, we have not only realized that we as a community have a problem, but also that we contribute to the problem. In some cases we have created those issues. We are better equipped to deal with those issues.”
– AJ Fawver, City of Amarillo

Community-Led Proactive Relocation: Community-Based Processes and Experiences

By Allie Goldstein, Conservation International

Key takeaway: Communities themselves must lead relocation efforts; they know what they need and have the right to self-determination.

Communities across the country — from Louisiana to Alaska — are already hatching plans to relocate in the face of sea level rise and extreme weather events. Panelists at this session emphasized the importance of self-determination in what can often be a painful process and framed a community’s agency in this process as a human rights issue. Indigenous peoples and other communities have the right to “protect in place,” as well as to make the decision to move.

Funding can often be a barrier to community-led proactive relocation. Kelsey Moldenke, senior planner for the Quinault Indian Nation, noted building a school in the tribe’s new Upper Village in Washington State will cost $50 million, only 20% of which the state will pay for. Stanley Tom of Newtok Village, Alaska also said that despite deciding on a new site for their community years ago (their current land base is eroding at a rate of 50-100 feet per year), his people are cash-strapped to carry out the plan. The panel suggested that championing local knowledge and capacity is the best way to get things done.

“If communities are given what they need to relocate, they do it, and they do it in a way that’s honoring their communities. That’s how relocations have to happen. We deserve to live out our cultures and our languages, and we shouldn’t accept anything less.”
– Denise Pollock, Alaska Institute for Justice

The speakers for this session differed from the program: 

Julie Maldonado, Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange
Kelsey Moldenke, Quinault Indian Nation
Stanley Tom, Newtok Village
Kristina Peterson, Lowlander Center
Denise Pollock, Alaska Institute for Justice
Robin Bronen, University of Alaska Fairbanks

The Resilience Songsheet: Exploring Alignment of Planning Processes for Coastal Communities

By Anna Marandi, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: It’s possible for state and federal agencies to work together to align their message and provide one-stop-shop adaptation planning services for local communities.

In California, several federal and state partners are collaborating in a unique way to align their message and better serve local communities in their adaptation planning processes. This new collaboration aims to avoid redundancies, amplify the messages of all groups, leverage resources, maximize staff capacity, and collaborate more effectively. Collaborating organizations include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the California Coastal Commission, the California State Coastal Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management, and University of Southern California Sea Grant.

This organizational alignment can also help local governments navigate the wealth of information available in California and address issues of changing budgets, the variety of community needs, and uncertainty in general. At a resilience workshop, these groups offered a “resource market” to local communities where agencies showcased their tools and resources in one location. USGS has published a matrix analyzing the various models from these groups on Climate Central to clarify the differences between and nuances of these multiple resources and tools.

“Engagement should not be mistaken with outreach. The latter involves one way communication, while engaging is listening to the community.”
– Juliette Hayes, FEMA Region IX

The speakers for this session differed from the program: 

Juliette Finzi Hart, USGS
Maryam Hariri, Ogilvy Public Relations
Juliette Hayes, FEMA Region IX
Hilary Papendick, San Mateo County Office of Sustainability
John Rozum, NOAA Office for Coastal Management
Sumi Selvaraj, CA Coastal Commission
Nick Sadrpour, University of Southern California, Sea Grant

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Why Collaborative Adaptation is Messier Than Theory in Small Communities

By Allie Goldstein, Conservation International

Key takeaway: Building resilience in coastal communities is a messy process, and it’s not homogeneous.

In New Hampshire, a state of 1.3 million with the motto “Live Free or Die,” one size of coastal resilience doesn’t fit all. Members of the relatively young New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup (NHCAW) shared their experiences of working with small coastal communities and why the process is messier in practice than in theory.

Since 2009, NHCAW has worked with 19 communities and brought $6.5 million in grant funding into the state. They shared examples of their experiences in the towns of Rye and Dover, both of which will incorporate an adaptation chapter into their master plan. These two towns have built capacity through various initiatives, including a series of workshops. In Rye, the process of collaborative adaptation became challenging when an eye-opening recognition of climate risks caused some residents to call the proposed plans inadequate. In Dover, it was the opposite, as the process was challenged by outspoken local voices denying climate change.

NHCAW found that taking incremental steps, building trust over time, and giving communities space when they are stretched too thin are all key to moving forward long-term. Implementation, however, remains a challenge. there is typically more funding available for creating tools than for creating living shorelines.

“It’s easier to fund tools than to fund boots-on-the-ground, shovel-ready projects. We’re not upsizing culverts or building living shorelines all over the place like we’d like to.”
– Kirsten Howard, New Hampshire Coastal Program

“Your challenge isn’t to change those voices, it’s to incorporate them, take what’s meaningful, and move forward.”
– Steve Miller, City of Portsmouth, NH Fish and Game Department (on climate deniers)

How to Start and Conduct a Tribal/Indigenous Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

By Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International, ASAP Member

It was standing room only for this session on starting and conducting tribal climate change assessment and adaptation plans. All speakers emphasized the importance of communication, truly listening to communities, and respecting cultural traditions in order to make any partnership successful (both in life and climate change planning). While the session covered the award-winning 1854 Treaty Authority Adaptation Plan, the multifaceted work by the Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation, and the ongoing efforts of the Navajo Nation, it was the presentation by Queen Quet from the Gullah/Geechee Nation that stole the show. It’s not every day a talk turns into a performance, and Queen Quet moved the audience with her storytelling and perspective.

Five Things I’ve Learned at NAF so Far

By Joyce Coffee, Climate Resilience Consulting, ASAP Board of Directors

  1. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 1,000 communities in 40 cities over 17 years have already experienced managed retreat. – From Anne Siders, Stanford University
  2. Multi-generational trauma, caused in part by the collapse of the salmon fisheriess, has contributed to a suicide crisis among young men. The word hewecheck expresses the idea of adaptation—I live, I am well, I get healthy, I survive. – From Joe Hostlery, Environmental Specialist, Yurok Tribe Environmental Program Community and Ecosystems Division
  3. A good reference for the value of health-related adaptation communication. – From Adaptation International
  4. There is a way to monetize water risks, and S&P’s Trucost has worked with industry to derive it. – From Raj Rajan, Ecolab
  5. There are many ways to conceive of adaptation in the built form. – From the design community, including Doug Pierce, Perkins and Will RELi, Cole Roberts, Arup, Weathershift, and the U.S. Green Building Council LEED resilience credits through the Resilient Design Institute

Wednesday, May 10

Continuing the Momentum: Adaptation Work with a New Administration

By Beth Gibbons, Managing Director, American Society of Adaptation Professionals

Key takeaway: Federal government agencies and public employees remain in a leadership position and are motivated to continue adaptation work, but they need adaptation professionals to show our support by using and advocating for the programs that are important to us.

This was a much-needed session on the current state of climate adaptation policies and programs. Jessica Grannis of Georgetown Climate Center provided an insightful presentation on how President Obama’s adaptation-related executive orders affected policies and programs across federal agencies and throughout our regulatory environments. She then explained how President Trump’s recent executive orders will—or already have—affected Obama-era programs.

Panelists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Energy, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency discussed the ways their agencies and programs are evolving—or rather, not evolving—under the Trump administration. Speakers from the Pew Charitable Trust and Rebuild by Design explained how they were able to integrate Obama-era regulations into long-term, private-side programs to ensure the programs’ administrative resilience.

After hearing from these speakers, the audience split into small groups to hear important updates on data preservation, federal funding opportunities, and local and state leadership. The session created a comfortable environment for the adaptation community to better understand current federal challenges, ask frank questions, and continue to build and foster our adaptation community.

A Mini-Town Hall on Persistent Adaptation: How Do We Overcome Challenges to Information Access and Exchange?

By Emily Mead, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Sustainable Communities

During this interactive session, the audience responded to questions posed by the facilitators using their mobile devices so their answers could be shown in real time on the room’s projector screen. When audience members were asked to describe the current resilience adaptation ecosystem, no one was surprised that many people submitted words like fragmented, disparate, disjointed, and competitive. Positive words—like creative and ambitious—also appeared, but with less frequency. But, when audience members were asked to describe what the resilience adaptation ecosystem could be like, they submitted words like collaborative, coordinated, and funded.

One question sparked a particularly robust conversation: which aspects of the resilience adaptation ecosystem are currently missing? The audience voted, populating the screen with words including collaboration, coordination, and data. It became clear the many organizations, communities, and political intricacies within the resilience adaptation ecosystem are distinct and have different cultures, but there are opportunities to learn from each other and share resources.

The town hall continued with four main questions guiding the interactive conversation:
1. What are the essential components of a thriving, open collaboration for climate services?
2. What common, underlying assumptions and values must we all hold and abide by?
3. What already exists that could readily be integrated into an open ecosystem?
4. Who is willing to share/allocate real resources? Who is willing to share ownership and responsibility?

The town hall facilitators will post notes from this robust and engaging conversation on the NAF website, so be sure to check back in. Attendees were asked to express their interest in diving deeper into these questions, with the possibility of participating in a future gathering.

Next Era of Market Finance for Resilience

By Allie Goldstein, Conservation International

Key takeaway: Private sector finance for resilience can be leveraged through various types of green bonds, mitigation markets that feed an adaptation fund, and other incentives to financially internalize climate risk.

As the private sector increasingly faces climate risks, particularly to built infrastructure assets, forward-thinking companies, financial services firms, and even state governments are finding creative ways to facilitate resilient private sector investments. The paneliststhree in consulting and one with Delaware’s Division of Energy and Climateoffered some salient examples. In Delaware, the state decided to use proceeds from carbon allowances under their greenhouse gas reduction program to create a Strategic Opportunity Fund for Adaptation to fund 10 projects, including one focused on greening downtown development.

Across the United States, the green bond market is exploding (the U.S. municipal green bond market is now worth $30.3 billion), and private investment may be further incentivized through zoning requirements, group purchasing programs (e.g., Solarize), and design competitions. Other more moonshot ideas for leveraging private capital for adaptation include issuing resilience bonds tied to lowered insurance premiums and incorporating climate metrics in standard credit risk ratings.

“Climate intelligence is a critical enabler to improve climate action, including in the corporate context.”
– Yoon Kim, Four Twenty Seven

The speakers for this session differed from the program: 

Joyce Coffee, Climate Resilience Consulting
Jon Crowe, Meister Consultants Group, Inc.
Yoon Kim, Four Twenty Seven Climate Solutions

Adaptation Learning Exchanges: The Value of Face-to-Face Contact

By Anna Marandi, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: There is high value in fostering ongoing relationships and in-person exchanges among resilience leaders who are each engaged in parallel work in their own communities. Systems can be modeled, and valuable ideas spread. There is an inherent trust among adaptation leaders in cities, and this type of peer-to-peer networking holds great potential for mutual benefit and assistance.

The United Nations’ Global Adaptation Network exchanges adaptation knowledge through regional networks: Asia Pacific, Africa, West Asia, Latin America, and the U.S. EcoAdapt and the Environmental Protection Agency are two U.S.-based partners. India and Malawi, South Africa Durban and Mozambique, and Colombia and Honduras have all engaged in a learning exchange, where adaptation leaders shared ideas, built trust, and established ongoing relationships. Prior to joining this program, the city of Durban, South Africa had engaged in a series of exchanges with Jennifer Jurado and Suzy Torriente of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.

Sean O’Donoghue from the City of Durban Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department found the Compact’s structure worked well in Durban. This collaboration resulted in the exchange of nature-based solutions and solutions for sea level rise and water catchment management, which in turn eliminated a feeling of isolation among environmental managers.

Africa has a young population with a hunger for innovation, and it is critical to engage populations across the continent. Officials in many African cities are committed to adaptation action and exchanges because they share similar challenges, they feel a sense of trust with others working on adaptation, and there is an opportunity to spread innovation. Now, many other Durban municipal departments are creating their own compacts, and are partnering with mayors across Mozambique. In Mozambique, interregional collaboration is becoming more common. In Tanzania, every municipality is creating its own climate change committee, and municipalities are working to create compacts.

“It’s these ongoing relationships that are actually important — that to me, is what’s important to gain. It’s not just a one-off, it’s a process.”
– Sean O’Donoghue, City of Durban Environmental Planning & Climate Protection Department

Community-Based Adaptation in Practice: The Intersection of Policy and Action

By Anna Marandi, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: Communities are motivated for different reasons and use a variety of strategies to take adaptation action. These efforts are dependent on the city’s climate-related issues, politics, economic status, natural resources, and cultural values.

Boston’s near miss with Hurricane Sandy was a wake up call that motivated the city to take action; city officials created a checklist, worked with developers, and built capacity among stakeholders to begin thinking about adaptation. In Flagstaff, a study by The Kresge Foundation determined there were multiple values motivating the community to take action, not just vulnerability. Cities across the country—Seattle, Tulsa, Chula Vista, Cleveland, Boston, and the Southwest Crown in Montana—are taking action on adaptation while focusing on equity and community development.

“There was a conscious decision to use success stories in these case studies, because that’s how communities learn. It is possible to learn from failures, but it’s very sad!”
– Jason Vogel, Abt Associates

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives at the Interface of Climate Science, Adaptation, and Collaboration for Coastal Resilience

By Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International, ASAP Member


Key takeaway: Co-production of knowledge requires investment in relationships and, to be done well, may mean budgeting 30% to 50% more per project.

The panelists in this session gave examples of work with native communities in Alaska, West Coast estuary research reserves, and Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands that were focused on the meaningful co-production of knowledge and actionable science. They shared detailed examples of on-the-ground collaborative action, which highlighted how the outcome of true collaboration can sometimes be unexpected and surprising. One example from Hawai’i described how villagers and climate scientists came together to discuss restoring historic fish ponds, only to decide the most immediate need was re-foresting the watersheds above the ponds.

Thursday, May 11

Many Paths to Rome: The Disciplinary and Undisciplined Skills Adaptation Practitioners Can’t (Shouldn’t?) Live Without

By Emily Mead, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Sustainable Communities; Karina French, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities; and Sara Moore, Consultant

Key takeaway: When working in adaptation, individuals can’t be experts in every area or skillset, but they can create a network of experts to facilitate co-creation and co-learning among those with diverse knowledge sets—community-based development, environmental justice, climate science, communications, statistics, and more.

The adaptation field is relatively new, and quickly growing. This session brought together current leaders in the field for a dialogue on what they consider the key elements of strong adaptation work and what it means to be an adaptation professional. Audience members shared their strengths and weaknesses in the field, and the panelists explored the implications of their answers.

About one third of the audience said their areas of expertise were communications, stakeholder engagement, program development, and relationship building, while about half of the audience said their strengths were data and policy analysis and technical capabilities. When asked about their weaknesses, most audience members who claimed “social” strengths felt they lacked analytical and technical skills, while many who identified themselves as having technical strengths felt they lacked relationship-building skills. It became clear that the strengths and weaknesses of any individual could likely complement the strengths and weaknesses of another, highlighting the importance of connection and networking across the field. Among the minority who felt they had both skill sets, there was an interest in establishing an accreditation or certification to denote this level of expertise.

The panelists identified many opportunities to build the capacity of the adaptation field and the skills of adaptation professionals. Training and fellowship programs—such as the American Society of Adaptation Professionals’ upcoming mentorship program—allow professionals and students to network, as well as connect and compile existing resources. The Institute for Sustainable Communities helps to build the field’s capacity through collaborative cross-sector programs and workshops at the local level, including Sustainable Community Leadership Academies, multi-day workshops that provide technical training, peer-learning, and networking opportunities.

“The line between mitigation and adaptation is false—good adaptation will also reduce the extent of future impact.”
– Steve Adams, Institute for Sustainable Communities, ASAP Board Member

Environmental Justice-Based Climate Resiliency Plans

By Karina French, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: Equity is different than justice. Equity speaks to reducing the effects of climate change across the board—sharing pollution and climate impacts more equally. Justice speaks to addressing the historic and systemic legacies that have led to communities of color and low-income communities bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change.

Equity in adaptation is a growing concern in climate planning. This panel of environmental justice leaders highlighted examples of different efforts to integrate equity—as well as justice—in climate adaptation planning. Dr. Nicky Sheats shared the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance’s approach to developing community-driven climate action. Cathleen Kelly outlined the Center for American Progress’ work to study and elevate equity concerns in cities across the U.S. and Michele Roberts spoke about how colonialism and discriminatory policies have made communities vulnerable to the impacts of the chemical, oil, and gas industries.

“We are organizing to make sure that when we are happy about the progress we’ve made on equity, equity transforms to justice.”
– Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice Health Alliance

The speakers for this session differed from the program: 

Nicky Sheats, PhD, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance
Shalini Gupta, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy
Cathleen Kelly, Center for American Progress
Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice Health Alliance

Implementing Adaptation Actions that Address Climate Issues Faced by both People and Nature

By Rebecca Esselman, Huron River Watershed Council

Key takeaway: Preparing ecosystems for climate change will often increase the adaptive capacity of people.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund supports projects designed to increase the adaptive capacity of ecosystems. Presenters in this session—former Climate Adaptation Fund grantees—discussed how climate adaptation for ecosystems also benefits people. A forestry project in Northern Minnesota has used local knowledge to determine adaptation strategies that provide some continuity for forestry professionals. An innovative design for living shorelines in the Chesapeake Bay allows the buffer to migrate upslope as the sea level rises, providing long-term protection from storm surge at a fraction of the cost of engineered solutions. In the Huron River Watershed, where implementing adaptation strategies requires buy-in from a diverse set of stakeholders, communicating the multiple benefits of implementation has supported swift action.

Adaptation to Maintain Agricultural Productivity

By Beth Gibbons, Managing Director, American Society of Adaptation Professionals

Key takeaway: We must evolve agricultural practices to include more integrated approaches and rapidly identify opportunities for scaling proven interventions.

This session explored critical challenges and opportunities in adaptation and agriculture, particularly the rapid morphing of agriculture into agribusiness. This shift is important to note because—while agriculture is multidimensional and requires that we consider lifestyle, community, and other factors—agribusiness is less complex. The current state of agriculture requires us to think about adaptation strategies that integrate agroforestry, animal husbandry, and growing. With these approaches, we can improve soil quality and water resource management while increasing economic resilience for the community. When engaging in this work, it is important to remember that the agricultural calendar is extremely complex. The combination of seasonal variability, inter-seasonal climate impacts, and economic pressures means adaptation professionals must continue working to bring together the right combination of landholders, renters, insurance industry representatives, and climate scientists to make well-informed decisions.

“Agriculture is morphing to an agribusiness. Culture is multidimensional, business is less so.”
– Rick Cruse, Iowa State University

What Would an Effective Nationwide Climate Change Adaptation Service Delivery System Look Like?

By Beth Gibbons, Managing Director, American Society of Adaptation Professionals

Key takeaway: The lack of a coordinated adaptation service delivery system poses a major challenge to the adaptation field, and establishing this service is a high priority. We will only be successful in responding to the needs of communities when everyone has a voice in forming this resource.

This highly interactive working group served as a capstone for ongoing conversations from throughout the National Adaptation Forum about ways to improve information, resource, and service delivery for the field. A long-standing challenge in adaptation is the spread of information and resources across multiple organizations, agencies, and universities, which makes it painfully difficult for many people to find information crucial to their work. During this hands-on session, attendees sat in small groups and wrote down the components necessary for the success of a coordinated adaptation service. The session concluded with a report out from each group highlighting the major takeaways of their discussions, including the importance of the system being comprised of trusted advisors.

Community Organizing to Build Resilience to the Water-Related Impacts of Climate Change

By Anna Marandi, Program Officer, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Key takeaway: This panel provided a much-needed opportunity for unheard voices to share their stories at a national level.

This session showcased the work of several unsung environmental justice heroes from across the country who work primarily on water-related issues. Many of the panelists have had their lives threatened for leading these efforts, including Catherine Flowers, who works closely with the residents and activists of Lowndes County, Alabama on water and sanitation issues. Pompahatot Tuiimyali spoke about the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s efforts to bring salmon back to local rivers in California. Tameeka Bennett shared experiences on her work with her East Palo Alto community to ensure that all residents have access to clean water.

The speakers for this session differed from the program:

Colin Bailey, The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Tameeka Bennett, Youth United for Community Action
Catherine Flowers, Alabama Community Development Corporation
Nahal Ghoghaie, The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Amorin Mello, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Pompahatot Tuiimyali , Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Adaptation Professionals Drive Positive Growth

By Beth Gibbons, Managing Director, American Society of Adaptation Professionals, and Missy Stults, Independent Adaptation Consultant

The National Adaptation Forum (NAF) presented an outstanding opportunity to learn from, connect with, and meet new adaptation practitioners, scholars, and collaborators from across the nation and beyond). From large-scale, topically focused plenaries and hands-on working sessions to side conversations in the RiverCentre corridors, we were reminded that at its heart, adaptation is about people.

This year’s forum improved on previous years by reflecting the field’s need and desire for greater attention on environmental and social justice. While we still have a long way to go, we’re starting to build the bridges and relationships required to ensure adaptation efforts are ethical, just, and effective. It was wonderful to see greater age, race, and ethnic diversity represented at the NAF. The forum brought together the strong representation of tribal leaders, local and county government staff, emerging and young professionals, and natural resource managers. We must continue to include and recognize all people who work to enhance societal resilience.

The forum created the space for these professionals to engage and connect with one another. More than 1,000 individuals from 48 states, a dozen sectors, and multiple scales came together in St. Paul to share, connect, and support each other in our collective adaptation efforts.

We are hopeful that the seeds of new relationships planted at the NAF will allow our field to continue growing toward our gold standard: more connected and resilient communities, natural systems, people, and places. We still have a long way to go, but with this community working together, we are hopeful and excited about where we are heading.