A Coastal Resilience Specialist with North Carolina’s Division of Coastal Management in Morehead City, Christian Kamrath works with local governments and partner organizations to facilitate coastal adaptation and resilience planning in the state’s twenty coastal counties. Previously, he worked on climate adaptation, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness planning with North Carolina Sea Grant, the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A self-proclaimed weather-nerd, Christian is a former forecaster at the University of Florida (WRUF-TV6), and now a recent graduate (’18) of the Masters of City and Regional Planning program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Christian is also the owner of CK Resilience Planning, an independent consulting firm.
Tagged: Best practice
Making the “Miami Forever Bond” a Model for Equitable Climate Adaptation
By Zelalem Adefris, Resilience Director at Catalyst Miami
You could say that Miami, Florida, is ground zero for climate change. As the American city most vulnerable to sea-level rise, Miami faces existential threats from flooding, storm surge and saltwater intrusion in the city’s drinking water. And growing inequity places Miami’s low-income and marginalized communities at extraordinary risk from climate impacts.
But—thanks to the Miami Climate Alliance, a coalition of citizens’ groups–this coastal city could also be at the forefront of equitable climate adaptation.
Last year, under the leadership of its outgoing Republican Mayor, Tomás Regalado, Miami’s voters passed a $400 million “Miami Forever Bond.” The measure authorized the city government to borrow money on the municipal bond market to address sea-level rise and the city’s affordable housing crisis, levying a new property tax to repay the debt. The Miami Climate Alliance is working to ensure that the bond benefits those who need it most.
How did a famously tax-averse city with a conservative Republican mayor find itself in the vanguard of climate adaptation? The answer lies, in part, with Regalado’s conversion from climate skepticism. When he was elected in 2009, Regalado thought that sea level rise was “a very distant future possibility,” he later told The New York Times. But, during a series of 4:30 am chats over Cuban coffee, Regalado’s son, Jose, convinced him of the urgency of the problem.
That urgency has become increasingly difficult to ignore. Over the last 10 years, the Miami region has seen floods increase in frequency by 400 percent; fish now swim the flooded streets even on rainless, sunny days. The ocean that laps at the region’s famed beaches has risen nearly a foot since preindustrial times, and could swell by six feet or more by the end of this century. Rising seas will combine with supercharged storms to inundate the Miami region, which is home to nearly three million people.
Of course, not all people are affected equally by climate threats. That was evident when Hurricane Andrew tore through Miami in 1992; the hardest-hit areas included the impoverished municipality of Florida City, south of downtown Miami. While neighboring areas quickly bounced back after the storm, Florida City suffered from plummeting property values and rising poverty.
And, despite the city’s booming tourist trade and glittering seaside real estate, many City of Miami residents are struggling to get by. Nearly 60 percent of Miami-Dade County households are considered financially unstable; one in five live in poverty. Poverty is most prevalent among African-American and Hispanic communities, which together make up 85 percent of Miami-Dade’s population.
As climate impacts became a daily reality for the people of the City of Miami, Mayor Regalado gathered support for the bond initiative. He got an assist from the First Street Foundation, whose Seawall Coalition (a 501 (c) (4) organization) spent $350,000 to educate the city’s voters about sea-level rise. Ultimately, about 55 percent of Miami’s electorate voted in favor of the Miami Forever Bond.
Miami is not the first U.S. city to raise money to gird against climate change. In 2012, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved a $290 million debt measure to rebuild a seawall that protects the downtown waterfront. And in 2016, San Francisco Bay area residents approved a tax to fund a $500 million restoration of tidal marshes, which act as a buffer against storm surges.
In Miami, city officials have set broad outlines for how the bond funds will be spent: they have earmarked $192 million for storm drain upgrades, flood pumps and seawalls to curb flooding; $100 million for affordable housing and economic development; $78 million for parks and cultural facilities; $23 million for road improvements; and $7 million for public safety.
But the devil, as always, is in the details. Which neighborhoods will see the greatest benefit from bond funding? And who decides how the money will be spent? The stakes are high: if spending bypasses Miami’s most vulnerable communities, current inequities will only deepen in the decades to come.
That’s why the Miami Climate Alliance is working to make sure the Miami Forever Bond benefits all the city’s people—especially those in underserved communities.
The Alliance was convened in 2015 by a diverse group of some 100 Miami-area residents (including community leaders, students, over 80 community organizations, social justice advocates, environmentalists, scientists, teachers, and climate activists) to organize the Miami People’s Climate March. While organizing the March, Alliance members were surprised to learn that there was no mention of climate change—or funding for climate action—in Miami-Dade County’s $6.8 million FY 2015-16 budget. So the Alliance mobilized residents to speak up during the budget hearings, which led to the creation of the County’s Office of Resilience and its first-ever Chief Resilience Officer.
Since then, the Alliance and its member organizations have pushed Miami to take the lead on equitable climate action. For example, after the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, the Alliance won commitments from several local municipalities to support the Accord targets on renewable energy. And, when the City appointed a new Sea Level Rise Committee, the Alliance fought hard to make sure that Committee reflects the city’s diversity.
“If you include black and brown people, people from the community, you’ll change the dynamic,” Trenise Bryant, an Alliance activist, told the Miami Herald earlier this year.
Now the Alliance is working to make sure that communities have a real say in how the Miami Forever Bond funds are spent. To that end, the Miami Climate Alliance and Catalyst Miami organized a series of town halls, which drew dozens of community members. There, residents agreed on a set of criteria to apply to Bond-funded projects. The Alliance will work to make sure those criteria are used by a citizen oversight board that makes recommendations on Bond spending to the City Commission.
The Alliance also helped shape the citizen oversight board, making sure it reflects the City’s racial, gender and age diversity—while excluding those with overt conflicts of interest. And the Alliance helped ensure that the board includes not only those with expertise in hydrology, architecture, and engineering, but also those with knowledge of community leadership and an equity perspective. All of these asks were incorporated into the oversight board ordinance by the City Commission and Mayor Francis Suarez.
It’s a slow-moving process: nearly a year after the bond’s approval, the city’s oversight board has still not met. However, the Miami Climate Alliance will be there every step of the way, amplifying the voices of those at greatest risk from climate impacts. If this effort succeeds, Miami could be a model of climate adaptation that is both farsighted and just.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit will take place next week on October 24-25 in Miami Beach. Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Beach are hosting the 10th Annual Climate Leadership Summit on behalf of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. Registration closes on October 19th. A waitlist is available for the first 50 people who are interested in attending.
Mentorship Program Spotlight: Innovating on Adaptation
Miles Gordon is a Research Intern at the Cadmus Group’s Strategy and Policy Group in Boston, MA, where he works on a variety of projects focused on urban resilience and sustainability policy. Originally from Portland, Miles received his Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Oregon in 2016. Now a recent graduate from Ohio University with a master’s degree in Environmental Studies, his graduate work focused on climate adaptation planning methods for native tribes in the United States.
Seeking to advance his expertise with mentorship from a seasoned adaptation practitioner, Miles was happy to meet Sascha Petersen. Sascha has been working in the climate change field for more than twelve years. He founded Adaptation International in 2010 and was the first managing director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (hey, that’s us!). Also a lead author on the National Climate Assessment, Sascha has worked with climate scientists and municipal governments and focuses on bridging the gaps between climate change science, policy and action. Originally from Alaska, Sascha earned his Bachelor’s in Physics from Pomona in California and has been unstoppable since—he’s even trained astronauts at the Johnson Space Center!
A topic that Miles and Sascha have been actively exploring is how to successfully cultivate a career in adaptation. Since climate adaptation is a relatively nascent field, formal certification structures do not yet exist. The path towards carving out a career in the adaptation space is not as linear as it is in other fields (e.g., accounting or city planning).
Considering this, many of Miles and Sascha’s conversations have been around how to navigate the evolving field of climate adaptation to build a fulfilling career path. Something Miles has learned is that an ‘adaptation-only’ setting isn’t necessary to carve out space as an adaptation professional. As his internship at Cadmus has progressed, he has found that projects that aren’t strictly focused on adaptation planning still bring meaningful experiences that add to an adaptation skill set and knowledge base, as well as an adaptation resume.
“Miles has a great sense of how to advocate for himself in a professional setting. My role has been less of a guide and mostly to serve as a ‘gut check’ and help reinforce and support his feelings and approach to creating a career in adaptation.”
Sascha notes that Miles is also sort of a tri-coastal chameleon. Since he grew up in Oregon, went to school in Ohio, and now works in Boston, being able to blend in from the West Coast to the Northeast will prove to be a great asset in his resilience work. With such a dynamic adaptation future on the horizon, we hope Miles will bring his field experience, knowledge and wisdom back to ASAP’s Mentorship Program!
Congratulations to 2018 California Regional Adaptation Leadership Award honorees Tiffany Wise-West, Andrew Gunther, and Nicola Hedge! Thank you for your contributions and leadership in the field of climate adaptation.
Sierra Woodruff and Russ Sands share their experience in designing the ASAP Mentorship Program
Contact: Beth Gibbons, American Society of Adaptation Professionals, Managing Director
EMAIL: [email protected]
Prize for Progress Award Winner Announced
American Society of Adaptation Professionals Honors City and County of San Francisco
St. Paul, Minn. — May 9, 2017 — The American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) awarded its 2017 Prize for Progress to the City and County of San Francisco for groundbreaking work incorporating sea level rise into capital planning.
“The Prize for Progress honors the important adaptation work of communities and groups—like the City and County of San Francisco—who are taking action now to protect human lives and natural systems against the immediate and long-term effects of climate change,” said ASAP Managing Director Beth Gibbons. “By highlighting this innovative work and sharing these success stories, we hope to improve and accelerate climate adaptation efforts across the country.”
San Francisco is the second recipient of this biannual prize, which recognizes innovative communities and organizations taking leadership in decreasing the vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change.
The Bay Area is projected to see a rise in sea levels of between 36-66 inches by 2100, threatening roads, water treatment plants, San Francisco and Oakland airports, as well as homes and businesses.
Under the direction of Democratic Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco created the city’s first official policy directing its response to the threat of sea level rise: Guidance for Incorporating Sea Level Rise into Capital Planning in San Francisco: Assessing Vulnerability and Risk to Support Adaptation.
Developed by a multi-agency committee led by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the policy has been an effective tool for evaluating the sea level rise vulnerability of capital investments in the city’s Ten-Year Capital Plan. Since adoption in 2014, the guidance has led to the modification of several capital projects in the city.
Gibbons presented the 2017 Prize for Progress to the City and County of San Francisco at the Adaptation Award Ceremony hosted by ASAP as a pre-National Adaptation Forum event. Four runners-up, the Huron River Watershed Council, The Conservation Fund, Menominee Tribal Enterprises and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, were also recognized for their innovation and leadership in the field of climate adaptation.
About the American Society of Adaptation Professionals
ASAP connects and supports climate adaptation professionals while advancing innovation and excellence in the field of climate change adaptation. ASAP’s membership spans 48 states, over 1000 members and over 400 organizations. ASAP to connect people across sectors, scales, and geographies is makes the organization uniquely qualified for scaling best practices, setting national standards, serving as the voice of the profession, and providing a broad and deep community to professionals in the adaptation field and all climate-impacted people. ASAP is supported by the Institute for Sustainable Communities with funding from the MacArthur Foundation. Learn more at https://adaptationprofessionals.org
About the Institute for Sustainable Communities
An international nonprofit organization, the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) has 26 years of practical experience working with local leaders. ISC’s programs are designed to facilitate peer learning and engagement among local leaders charged with the work of making their communities more sustainable. ISC’s innovative EHS programs are public-private partnerships that have trained more than 35,000 factory managers from more than 11,700 suppliers and 150 brands. ISC has led 108 projects in 30 countries, and currently works in China, India, Bangladesh and the United States. Learn more at iscvt.org
ASAP members are invited to participate in a rapid review of the (1) best practices, (2) needs, (3) and existing resources across the climate adaptation field in the United States. We are preparing the initial review of resources and insights on best practices and needs ahead of the National Adaptation Forum. During the Forum we will provide an opportunity to further refine the resource lists and identify best practices and needs. We hope that you will participate in this review in one or all of the following manners: