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Rebuilding Cities After Sandy: 3 Keys to Climate Resilience

As negotiators in Doha move toward a new global climate agreement this week, politicians and planners in the United States are still busy absorbing the lessons of Hurricane Sandy.

With half of all Americans living near the ocean, Hurricane Sandy provides a wake-up call for state and municipal authorities in coastal areas nationwide. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is leading the way, pledging a new generation of storm-resistant infrastructure and forming three commissions to explore how the state can better prepare for climate change’s coming impacts.

Sandy wrought a 1,000-mile trail of damage in towns and cities along the East Coast shoreline. As climate change intensifies, more severe storms (and storm surges), rising seas, extreme heat, and other destructive impacts loom on the horizon. How can New York City; Newark, N.J.; and other cities hit by Sandy rebuild in ways that avoid a repeat of the devastation that deprived millions of the basic essentials of modern life? How can other coastal cities adapt to become more resilient to a warming climate?

Put simply, they need to “build back better,” a phrase first coined by President Clinton following the 2004 Asian tsunami. In practice, this means coupling short-term efforts to get communities back on their feet with longer-term urban development that adapts to expected climate change impacts.

As they seek to make our coastal cities and towns more climate resilient, urban leaders should adopt three key approaches that we believe will be critical to success:

Why Businesses Must Focus on Climate Change Mitigation AND Adaptation

This week, Hurricane Sandy drew attention to the increasing climate-related risks for communities and businesses.

More and more companies are recognizing and reporting on actions they’re taking to “mitigate” climate change, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency, renewable power, and cleaner vehicles. Now, businesses are finding they’ll also need to “adapt” to more volatile conditions and help vulnerable communities become more resilient. Adaptation means recognizing and preparing for impacts like water stress, coastal flooding, community health issues, or supply chain disruptions, among other issues.

WRI discussed why businesses need to embrace mitigation AND adaptation strategies at the recent Net Impact conference, where I sat on a panel entitled: “Climate Change Adaptation: Mitigating Risk and Building Resilience.” Dr. David Evans, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Noblis, moderated the panel. Other panelists included Gabriela Burian, Director for Sustainable Agriculture Ecosystems at Monsanto, and John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T.

Why Is Choosing a Host Country for the Green Climate Fund Such an Important Decision?

The second meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the institution that’s expected to become the main global fund for climate change finance, will take place tomorrow in Songdo, Korea. While the Board will discuss several issues—everything from criteria for its executive director to hammering out a work plan—one is likely to take center stage: choosing the Fund’s host country.

Six countries are currently vying for the role: Germany (Bonn), Korea (Songdo), Mexico (Mexico City), Namibia (Windhoek), Poland (Warsaw), and Switzerland (Geneva). The decision is an important one—the appointed country will be tasked with providing a home for one of the main vehicles to help the world’s most vulnerable nations mitigate and adapt to climate change.

WRI and Mary Robinson Foundation Formally Launch the Climate Justice Dialogue

This post was co-authored with Wendi Bevins, an intern in WRI's Climate and Energy Program.

On September 25, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding, formally launching the "Climate Justice Dialogue." This initiative aims to mobilize political will and creative thinking to shape an equitable and ambitious international climate agreement in 2015—one that ensures environmental integrity and protects the communities most vulnerable to climate change.

The State of International Climate Negotiations

It’s now a full 20 years since adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is designed to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Despite important steps forward in Cancun and Durban, governments acknowledge that their combined efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to limit a global average temperature increase to 2°C.

Case Study: Applying Information for Adapting the Agriculture Sector in Bundelkhand, India

This case study documents the issues related to accessing, processing, and applying climate information in order to help farming communities take robust, low-risk agricultural adaptation measures. The study focuses on central India’s Bundelkhand region, which straddles the provinces of Uttar...

Case Study: Communicating Modeled Information for Adaptation Decision Making

By examining the HighNoon project in north India, this case study explores how adaptation-relevant information can best be packaged and disseminated to different users and audiences at the state, district, and block levels. It also explores what kinds of information are of most interest to...

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