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Climate Networks: Banding Together for Increased Resilience

The new bike share program in Las Vegas was a highlight at the Western Adaptation Alliance meeting this week.  Bina Skordas, Sustainability Program Manager for Park City Municipal Corporation, takes one for a spin!

With huge changes in national-level politics lately, it’s worth remembering that cities continue to remain key players in policy development and implementation on many fronts. Climate change is no exception.

Cities have a critical responsibility to ensure our infrastructure is up-to-the task of dealing with new weather patterns, extreme events, and more; and that our neighborhoods and economic systems are ready for the changes coming their way because of climate change. We have residents to care for, roads and storm water systems to protect, and services to keep on-line.

Cities also have the ability to walk-our-talk– taking measures to reduce our emissions and overall impact on the environment.

All of these are reasons why cities are effective actors for dealing with some of society’s most difficult problems; and why networks–with cities at the heart– are some of the most effective ways to do so.

In that spirit, we’d like to share with you a few of the ways we’re engaging in several local and regional climate-related networks to create a more resilient future:

Climate Adaptation in Las Vegas

Earlier this week, our Program Manager Tyler Poulson and Communications Manager Sophia Nicholas traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada to meet with sustainability staff from nearby cities to discuss climate adaptation strategies for the Southwest and Intermountain west.

This “peer-exchange” was funded entirely by a grant and involved municipal staff from cities in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

The purpose: When so much of the climate adaptation conversation revolves around sea-level rise (and justifiably so), this group, called the Western Adaptation Alliance (WAA), formed to discuss and learn from each other on preparing our communities for the unique climate threats facing the arid west.

This year’s annual WAA meeting saw a re-invigoration of our commitment to working at the city-level to prepare for these risks.

SLCgreen presented to the group on our program to educate and build climate champions within city government– a program called Climate Leaders which generated a lot of interest from our city partners.  We also reported back on a recent Climate Adaptation Exercise Training Salt Lake City Sustainability recently held with FEMA in September.

Next up was Flagstaff, discussing their program to assess the risks to city infrastructure and operations from increased risk of wildfire and extreme weather events.  We finished the conversation with ideas for the best ways to incorporate public health into the conversation; how to share templates for communicating climate risks with other departments within cities; and how we can create ongoing webinars to learn from what each of us is doing over the next year.

Then, as a field trip, we enjoyed the perfect Southern Nevada November weather to walk to City Hall, where we learned first-hand the many ways Las Vegas has curtailed its water use to prepare for a drier future.

To cap off our trip, the WAA team took the new bikes that are part of the city’s Bike Share for a spin.  The program is just a few weeks old. Check them out next time you’re in Vegas!

The Utah Climate Action Network Takes Off

On Wednesday, back in Salt Lake City, the SLCgreen team helped convene the second meeting of the Utah Climate Action Network (UCAN), which is an organization we helped launch earlier this year. Its purpose is to bring a wide array of organizations together to discuss ways climate change is affecting Utah and how we can foster greater partnerships to address its effects and mitigate the impacts.

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Ryan Stolley, new Program Manager for the Utah Climate Action Network, welcomes attendees to the meeting.

After a brief update on the genesis of UCAN; how it’s funded (currently through a 1-year Innovation Grant from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network); and who’s participating, we introduced our new Program Manager, Ryan Stolley– who we’ll be profiling in more detail soon.

The Network meeting featured a presentation on water conservation from David Wright, Landscape Architect for the LDS Church.  David revealed how the Church’s approach to developing properties such as Meetinghouses has progressed over time to include water-wise landscapes and locally specific considerations based on Eco-Regions throughout North America.  Additional information on this approach, along with the robust set of landscape resources leveraged by the Church, is available here.

Following that, the 40+ participants split into break-off groups to discuss various impact and interest areas related to climate change: including higher education, water usage, electricity and renewable energy, public health, electric vehicles, and more.

The goal of the network is to facilitate such conversations and spur connections between seemingly disparate organizations working in Utah who will, in some way, be affected by our changing climate.

To learn more and to join UCAN’s mailing list, visit: www.utahclimateactionnetwork.com

Whether in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, it’s been a busy week of climate conversation for SLCgreen.  We don’t have all the answers yet.  But in sharing information and learning from each other, we know we can be better prepared to take on the unique challenges that come with a warming world.

Watch this space: Cities– and our networks– are doing big things to reduce emissions, connect across sectors, and move forward toward solutions.

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