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The Ethical, Climate Ready Workforce

Posted By Keith Rizzardi, Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Ethical, Climate Ready Workforce Carbon Rises into Earth's atmosphere

Carbon rises into Earth's atmosphere, and rhetoric rises in Washington, D.C. Organizations everywhere are struggling to understand how to respond to these wild short-term swings of the federal political pendulum. One way is for businesses, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations to create a trained workforce with an understanding of the complexities of the policy and science nuances, and best operational practices, related to climate change.

Employee training is rarely an exciting topic. A thorough understanding of climate change, however, is essential to the modern workforce. In a post-truth, fake news era, organizations and individuals must possess the ability to discern reality. In years ahead, changes in rainfall patters may affect water supplies. Altered temperatures may affect agriculture and pollinator species. Storm events may destroy structures. Widespread flood events may increase. There is room, of course, to debate some details, such as the precise rate of rising seas. Some estimates may be high, others too low. But scientific uncertainty is not a basis for inaction. One does not need to be a doomsday prepper to recognize that risks are everywhere.

The question for every organization is how to best prepare for and respond to the changes ahead. And, for the professionals in those organizations, ethical duties apply. The speech and debate clause may empower reckless politicians with immunity to say anything at all, but the licensed accountants, architects, engineers, lawyers, and even realtors who erroneously rely upon or intentionally spread misinformation and lies can expose themselves to claims of malpractice and fraud. When it comes to climate change, professionals must demonstrate competence and truthfulness.

Fortunately, competence can be achieved and demonstrated in many ways. Programs and seminars can help educate people on critical concepts of climate change, and the goal should be to create a broad, interdisciplinary perspective that blends credible facts and science with knowledge of international, federal, state, and local policy, science and business perspectives. Professionals can seek out forums to share ideas and to network with peers and experts, so they can learn from the mistakes and successes of others. People can seek out expertise, too, and earn certifications demonstrating heightened competence in the field. Through a combination of “bootcamp” and online courses, in-person workshops, and credentialing programs, the Association of Climate Change Officers, a not-for-profit entity and professional association, offers an excellent way to meet these many employee training needs.

Public servants working for various federal environmental agencies have voiced concerns about the incoming administration. Perhaps they will even be forbidden from working on climate change, or even attending training programs. But ignorance solves nothing, and the problems of climate change will not disappear in the next four years. If and when the federal government fails to act, then other entities -- international, state and local governments, academics and non-profits -- must fill the void. Of special significance, in the business world, unexpected events might trigger sudden shortages, wild price fluctuations, and disruptions in supply chains and delivery systems. Risk-aware businesses know that long-term profitability and sustainability is at stake. Indeed, believe it or not, the leaders of commerce must become leaders in the difficult and controversial dialogue over climate change.

Our society can transform. Through technology innovation and behavioral modifications, people can reduce the carbon footprint, enhance public health, and embrace the social and business opportunities ahead. But rising to the challenge of climate change requires a workforce capable of recognizing the problems and implementing the solutions. For sophisticated organizations looking for ways to prepare for the climate changed future, a visit to ACCOonline.org is a good start. 

___

Keith W. Rizzardi, a professor at St. Thomas University School of Law near Miami, Florida, is a member of The Florida Bar, a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Administrative and Government Practice, and a member of the ACCO Champions Council. His scholarship related to the ethical implications of climate change includes Sea Level Lies: The Duty to Confront the Denier, 44 Stetson Law Review 75 (2014) and Rising Seas, Receding Ethics? Why Real Estate Professionals Should Seek the Moral High Ground, 6 Wash. & Lee Jrnl. of Energy, Climate & Environment 402 (2015).

The header picture is from Reddit Pics, and the picture below, of Mantoloking, NJ before and after Superstorm Sandy, is from Weatherworks Inc. and USGS.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  capacity building  climate  climate change  ethics  preparedness  resilience  training  workforce 

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An Open Letter to Young Professionals and Students in Climate Change, Sustainability and the Environment

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Friday, November 18, 2016

An Open Letter to Young Professionals and Students in Climate Change, Sustainability and the Environment
Daniel Kreeger – Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers
November 11, 2016

 

I have no doubt that the results of this week’s elections have you questioning whether you’ve taken the right career path.  Let me be very clear, now more than ever, your decision has been validated and is even more important. 

As I wrote earlier this week, the world is moving forward on climate change with or without the United States as a national player.  Global companies will have to deal with international and foreign policy efforts aimed at curbing emissions and preparing impacted and vulnerable communities.  Local, state and provincial governments are acting already given the localized impacts and implications and will increasingly be doing so.

There are some incredibly important lessons to be learned from this week.  There’s a significant part of the country that has felt disenchanted for many years and let out a roar.  While the vote result may be scary, if we dig deeper, there are some important drivers for this outcome. 

Last year, Pew did some research on American’s priorities.  They included (from greatest rated importance to least) defending the country from terrorism, strengthening the nation’s economy, improving the job situation, improving the educational system, reducing the budget deficit, reducing health care costs, dealing with problems of poor & needy, strengthening the U.S. military, and improving roads, bridges, and public transit.  So let’s evaluate some of those drivers that contributed this week’s results:

  • The ‘main street’ economy has been struggling for more than 20 years.
  • Jobs are increasingly outsourced beyond our borders.
  • Infrastructure is falling apart.
  • National security is a significant concern.

The President-Elect has indicated he’s going to invest heavily in infrastructure.  So let’s make sure that those investments are efficient, adaptive and resilient.  We need to create jobs, so let’s make sure that we reduce expenditures on natural resources and avoid as much financial damage from extreme events as possible.  Let’s help other parts of the world advance their economies such that terrorist movements are undermined by populations with growing economies and better quality of life.

Our mission clearly intersects with and is a critical component of these issues.  Mother nature, the laws of physics and the planet don’t care about our politics or which political party is in power.  Climate change is still happening, extreme events will continue to increase in frequency and magnitude, and the growing population and its resource demands will continue to challenge our societies.  You have the opportunity to align your work with these critical challenges.

So to be clear, giving up is NOT an option.  Let’s take a deep breath and reorganize our thoughts.

  1. Let’s think of our democracy like a pendulum.  We saw in 2008 and subsequently since 2010 what happens when we go too extreme in a political direction.  Take comfort in expecting that what goes around comes around and that this is a significant opportunity for the greatest climate smart advocacy effort the country has seen to date.  In 2008, more voters between the ages of 18 and 30 turned out than in any election prior.  In 2016, that wasn't the case.  Be the change you want to see and take control of your future -- not just every four years, but every day going forward.
  2. Success on climate change does not need to be hinged to Congress or the White House.  There are numerous paths forward, and historically, most national policy action happens because local and state governments take action.  The history of environmental regulation is littered with examples of states acting first and in an inconsistent way, which forced Congress to take action.  More recently, marriage rights were ruled upon at the Supreme Court because local and state government took action and the Court was compelled to hear the case.
  3. Taking action is the most constructive solution to dealing with emotional duress.  Whether your outlook is pessimistic, pragmatic or optimistic, the best way to ensure that you thrive is to identify tangible next steps and boldly take action. 

Do not let this give you cause to reconsider your conviction or career path.  Quite the contrary, it should serve to harden your resolve, catalyze innovation and focus your efforts.

The time to double down is now – and we need to band together and be more productive as a community of practice.  We are building an army of skilled practitioners and climate smart decision makers.  Our mission is clearer than it ever has been.  Next week, I will share additional thoughts.

Your work and career path is of critical importance.  Your success is even more so. 

With conviction and determination,

Daniel Kreeger
Executive Director
Association of Climate Change Officers

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The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership (Part 3: Be the Change You Want to See)

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership
A multi-part series following the 2016 elections
Daniel Kreeger – Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers

 

Part 3: Be the Change You Want to See

We’re all aiming to put things into perspective given the shakeup of the climate change policy landscape.  It’s time for bold leadership, and to be the change we want to see.  Do we really think that other people are going to clean this mess up?  We all need to pick up the shovel, and when we do, real change will take place.  Actions drive change.

Imagine what would happen if scores of companies, government officials and university leaders dramatically raised the bar on their own climate leadership. It’s really not that difficult to create a marketplace and a policy landscape that changes the landscape considerably. 

Here are some ideas, that if you added up across numerous organizations, would become game changers:

LITTLE STEPS ALONG THE WAY

  • Big wins can also come from little projects.  Don’t lose the forest from the trees.  Identify tangible smaller projects that can demonstrate success and build confidence in climate preparedness efforts and the value they can play for your organizations.
  • Find champions.  You’ll be surprised to learn what forces might get behind your initiatives.  Step outside your comfort zone and examine whose interests intersect with your own.  Seek guidance.  Find common ground.  Propose ideas.  Activate champions who can reinforce your efforts and/or introduce them to new stakeholders.
  • Activate a culture of invested stakeholders.  Identify activities and issues that will galvanize a portion of your workforce.  Whether establishing green initiatives teams looking inward at your organization, or conceiving and driving volunteer efforts to support your surrounding community, the more engaged your colleagues and stakeholders are in these efforts, the more confident, supportive and adventurous they will be in your efforts going forward.
  • Build stakeholder, public and political will for solutions.  More than half of Americans and the overwhelming majority of the world support taking action to meaningfully address climate change.  But there is a small minority that vehemently opposes climate action.  The devil is in the details. If we figure out how to help those whom would be harmed by climate smart policies and activate those whom are indifferent, perhaps we can turn them into allies in this effort.
  • There’s No Good vs. Evil.  Making people or organizations out to be bad guys either turns them into enemies or makes them indifferent.  Neither is productive.  Let’s sit down and listen to each other’s concerns and find common ground to move forward.
  • Establish and align goals to leverage co-benefits and stakeholder priorities by developing sound metrics and achieving benchmarks for economic development, public health and other priority quality of life considerations.

BIG STEPS SHAKE THINGS UP

  • Establish bolder reduction goals with long-term and escalating trajectories.  There are numerous bottom-line beneficial opportunities awaiting organizations that drive sensible greenhouse gas, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and materials management strategies.  The business case needs to extend beyond short-term gains.  Make bolder goals with transparent and aggressive glide paths so that stakeholders with long-term perspectives and decision-making process can get behind your efforts and adapt accordingly.
  • Mandate and provide climate preparedness training for key decision makers (not just environmental professionals) in your organization.  Civil engineers, facilities managers, architects, supply chain and procurement professionals, city managers, and infrastructure design and protection professionals are just a few of the key professions that can play a significant role in advancing GHG reduction, adaptation and resilience measures, thus ensuring that public and private sector organizations are well positioned to meaningfully contribute to efforts to slow down the impacts of climate change prepare for its implications.
  • Break down internal silos and establish collaborative leadership structures.  A vast range of professionals and decision-makers intersect with aspects of climate change.  This is particularly the case in large organizations.  Convene the key professionals, functions and departments and establish an ongoing collaborative leadership structure to assess vulnerabilities and opportunities and chart a collective strategic approach to responding to those considerations.
  • Consider your organization’s stance on policies and public affairs that intersect with climate change.  How is your organization positioning itself in the context of climate change?  How high is climate policy on your organization’s list of issues it addresses in the context of policy and public engagement?  Be bold, make it a top tier priority and keep it there consistently.  Sustained advocacy and public engagement is a critical tool toward affecting public and political will.
  • Think and act beyond your organization’s boundaries by forming collaborations with stakeholders and peer organizations.  The implications of climate change have no regard for organizational boundaries or jurisdictions.  Substantial opportunities to realize and achieve solutions await those who aggregate their interests and share resources.  Additionally, climate change and extreme events don’t respect organizational boundaries and jurisdictions. 

Remember, a chorus of these activities completely changes the landscape within your organization and outside its “fences.”  Rome wasn’t built in a day and it wasn’t built by one person.

These are just a few of the tangible action items we should all be thinking about.  The next few chapters of this blog series will hone in on opportunities for specific sectors and types of organizations.

Tags:  climate  Climate Action Plan  climate change  leadership 

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The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership (Part 2: Perspective & Bold Leadership)

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Monday, November 14, 2016

The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership
A multi-part series following the 2016 elections

 

Part 2: Perspective & Bold Leadership

Last week, we endured a substantial shock to the system.  Many of us have devoted enormous energy and emotion into climate action.  Now that we’ve taken a deep breath, let’s put some perspective to the opportunities that sit before us:

  • State and municipal leaders, whether elected officials or senior administrative personnel, have the opportunity to establish and implement bold initiatives that will shape practice, standards and markets here in the United States.  Those initiatives will create a groundswell and a marketplace that, in aggregate, would move the needle forward considerably.
  • Private sector leaders can echo these efforts by strongly advocating for sound climate and energy policy, establishing bold reduction goals, and partnering with public sector entities to develop solutions.
  • Higher education leaders can contemplate their institutions’ roles in driving a climate smart workforce and becoming laboratories for how communities and businesses can develop climate change solutions to issues such as financing and tax structures, building codes and zoning, new technologies and materials, economic development synergies and habitat protection.

Bold action by enough of these leaders would serve as a catalyst for a policy environment and marketplace dynamics that would shape consumption, adaptive management and preparedness efforts considerably.

The history of policy action in the United States does not reflect proactive leadership by the Federal government.  Don’t expect it. The evolution of nearly every single environmental regulatory policy stems from one of a few factors:

  1. local and state government acting first, with enough of them acting with different approaches that Congress is forced to step in and establish a common denominator enabling industry to function more smoothly across the country;
  2. industry giants descending upon Congress and advocating (with conviction) for policy enactment;
  3. catastrophe striking and action being taken in response;
  4. the Supreme Court is compelled to hear a matter and rule upon it (e.g. Massachusetts vs. EPA); and/or
  5. a populist movement so profound that elected officials are forced to act in response (e.g. Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage).

Years of activism from state governments and environmental groups resulted in the Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  More recently, local and state governments took action on marriage equality.  Legal battles ensued.  The Supreme Court was compelled to hear the case and a ruling was issued.

By 2009, nearly half of American states had signed on to regional climate change pacts.  There’s no coincidence that the Waxman-Markey bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act) passed the House that year.  Unfortunately, most state leaders chose to wait on Congress to act rather than enact GHG regulation themselves, which would have forced Congress to develop a national policy solution.  Shortly thereafter, change in political leadership further undermined the political will to act at the state level, one of the regional pacts folded and Congressional action was deemed an impossibility.

Mother nature does not care about political parties or your beliefs.  But I promise you the planet, national government and the marketplace will respond to bold and sensible action – and as it turns out, your communities and businesses will be infinitely better positioned to thrive if we pay closer attention to the dynamically changing world around us and inform our decision making accordingly.

The next few entries in this blog series will discuss specific initiatives and opportunities that public and private sector leaders can and should pursue.

Tags:  climate  climate change  leadership  sustainability 

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The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Time is Now – Doubling Down on Climate Leadership
A multi-part series following the 2016 elections
Daniel Kreeger – Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers
Tom Bateman – Bank of America Professor of Commerce, UVA McIntire School of Commerce

 

Part 1: Let’s All Take a Deep Breath

People who work on climate change policy and action planning across sectors are terrified – and they should be.   The election of a President and Congressional leadership that have announced their intent to turn the past 8 years of Federal agency and international climate action upside down should be scary.  But it also should be a rallying call.  The time is now – we simply cannot wait even a minute longer.

The world is moving forward on climate change with or without the United States.  Global companies will have to deal with international and foreign policy efforts aimed at curbing emissions and preparing impacted and vulnerable communities.  Local and provincial governments are acting already given the localized impacts and implications.

To be clear, giving up is NOT an option.  So, let’s take a deep breath and reorganize our thoughts.

  1. Let’s think of our democracy like a pendulum.  We saw in 2008 and subsequently since 2010 what happens when we go too extreme in a political direction.  Take comfort in expecting that what goes around comes around and that this is a significant opportunity for the greatest climate smart advocacy effort the country has seen to date.
  2. Success on climate change does not need to be hinged to Congress or the White House.  There are numerous paths forward.
  3. Taking action is the most constructive solution to dealing with emotional duress.  Whether your outlook is pessimistic, pragmatic or optimistic, the best way to ensure that you thrive is to identify tangible next steps and boldly take action.

Next week, we’ll share with you some prescriptive thoughts on clear, simple and tangible actions that employees and leaders of local and state government agencies, private sector entities, higher education institutions and the Federal government should be considering going forward. 

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WCC Speed Mentoring : Taking the Pressure out of Professional Networking

Posted By Julia Radice, Association of Climate Change Officers, Friday, July 29, 2016

Author: Sara Vargo, Association of Climate Change Officers

At the 2016 East Coast Climate Strategies Forum this July, professionals from across sectors gathered to hear plenary discussions, keynote speakers such as White House National Security Council Advisor Alice Hill, and bootcamp-style courses to earn credit for ACCO’s climate change-related certifications. A particularly unique event was held on the first evening by ACCO’s Women’s Climate Collaborative (WCC) appropriately titled “Speed Mentoring.” When a speed dating format meets a professional networking session, you get the Women’s Climate Collaborative Speed Mentoring Event. 

The event was structured very similarly to speed dating; each attendee spent 15 minutes at each table, led by a mentor who focused the discussion on one particular aspect of professional life. Topics included ‘making the most of your elevator pitch,’ ‘effective negotiation skills,’ ‘how to improve your personal branding,’ and ‘delivering what your manager really wants.’ Attendees then rotated around to the next table, and at the end, each had visited four different tables discussing different professional topics with different groups. From the perspective of someone who is a newcomer to the field, the structure of this event was ideal for taking the pressure off of one-on-one networking. While an essential part of modern professional life, networking can be stressful and intimidating, especially to someone just entering the professional workforce. This event removed some of that stress and allowed me to hear not only valuable pieces of advice from mentors I may not have approached on my own but also the perspectives of fellow participants. In fact, the input from those participants often ended up being the most valuable part of the event, for me. 

A concept that was expressed by multiple mentors was the importance of “knowing your audience.” Whether applied to negotiating, personal branding, communicating with the c-suite, or perfecting your elevator pitch, knowing who you are communicating with and how to effectively adjust to that audience is often the most important part of achieving the professional goals you are after. The organization of this Speed Mentoring session helped me to see that advice from multiple perspectives, applied to almost every area within one’s career. The structure of the event and the pace at which we were able to sit with mentors allowed the importance of “knowing your audience” to really sink in and stay with me. 

Christina O’Connell, Director of Business Development for Credit360 - a UL Sustainability company, was particularly memorable to me for her advice on delivering the most effective elevator pitch. The reality is that you never know when you will interact with someone of great importance in your company and having a “concise, personal and most importantly unique” pitch can bridge the gap between you and someone who could be an ally, down the line in your career. Christina said something else that I found particularly encouraging to me, as someone just starting out; that having an effective pitch does not necessarily mean pitching where you are in life, but where you want to be and the qualities that you think make you a good employee, often your passions. 

The advice of “knowing your audience,” and tailoring your pitch was echoed in a discussion on negotiation skills and tactics. The recommendation was to be cognizant of whom you are negotiating with and also of the ways you can appeal to their personal needs within the organization. An example one mentor gave was to identify not only the cost-cutting ways that your potential pitch could influence them but also the aspects of consumer demand and potential risks involved that could be beneficial. That said, the angle of saving money, while often effective, is not necessarily relevant to everyone or for every company. Essentially, it is important to ask the question, “what is in it for the person you are pitching to?”.

In an event structured like this one, an atmosphere of ease and casual dialogue is created that allows conversation to carry on past the event and into continued conversations. Without a specific reason for approaching someone, aside from to pick their brain about their career, networking can seem fake or insincere. The WCC Speed Mentoring session allowed for any awkward or phony introduction to be bypassed, going straight to meaningful, career-oriented conversation.  

The WCC is all inclusive; men engaged as mentors and as participants in this event. The mission of the WCC focuses around encouraging and promoting the professional advancement of women in the climate and sustainability professions--and engagement by all genders is essential to this endeavor. This event intended to provide mentoring and networking opportunities to all, bolstering our efforts to address climate change by supporting the professionals who work on such an important issue. For me, I was pleasantly surprised to see a unique playing field of professionals at the Climate Strategies forum; men and women, interns and CEOs, climate scientists and authors, all collaborating together. I have to believe that the existence of the Women’s Climate Collaborative influenced that equal playing field for ACCO and for the Climate Strategies Forum but also for anyone that has had the pleasure of attending a WCC event. 

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6 Easy Steps to Turbo Boost Climate Action in Local Government

Posted By Daniel Kreeger, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, April 7, 2016

While nations deliberate on national and international policy related to climate change, local governments worldwide are faced with the daunting challenge of addressing the localized implications of climate change on their communities and operations.  Ultimately, climate change poses an unparalleled volume and diversity of challenges for any organization, much less local governments who frequently do not (or may not think they) have sufficient resources to successfully address these considerations.

Let’s think about this as a maturity model. First you come to accept that you have a problem.  Once you’ve done so, a public administrator or elected leader will task someone to be responsible for addressing the issue.  In this case, an environmental professional, sustainability director or resilience officer may have been hired or designated from existing staff.  This is a great start, but even in the best of circumstances, a few people here and there trying to address the scope of implications facing that community is truly insufficient.  I would compare this to mice trying to move a battleship. 

Just think how difficult it is to change procurement guidelines, zoning and building codes, incorporate climate change into master planning efforts, engage the community, and develop innovative financing strategies, to name a few tasks.

So you’ve developed a nice core group within local government that has really begun to move the needle on climate action.  Now what? Here are a few practical, incredibly effective steps you should be taking to turbo boost climate action:

  1. Building Awareness– Climate change is changing the way we deliver local government services. Every employee needs to at least have an awareness of what climate change is and how it’s going to affect the community.  In the case of the City of Fort Lauderdale, the City worked with the CLEO Institute to develop a 2-hour session that every city employee was required to attend over a span of a few months.  Yes, even the maintenance field crews were included.  Why?  Because you need to open your  staff’s eyes to a dynamically changing world around them, foster the culture of change in your organization, engage every employee so that they will self-activate and become part of the solution, establish ambassadors at every turn and build public will.
  2. Training for Decision Makers– The name of the game here is making sure that your management understands that climate change is a critical imperative so that you can get them to become constructive assets to your climate action planning.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it also wasn’t built by one person.  You’re going to need your senior leaders in civil works, natural resources, parks and recreation, emergency management, transportation, fleet management, civil engineering and other key roles to be assets. They need to experience that moment when they realize climate change is affecting their job.  They also need the tools to modernize their profession. There are a plethora of free and/or very reasonably priced options available. You’ll be able to find courses that are taught by your local universities, the NOAA Climate Office and through ACCO’s Climate Fundamentals Academies (we’ll even help you build the capacity to administer and teach these on your own).  You can find online resources as well.  Be sure to select courses that are at least downscaled to your region so that attendees are learning about specific implications that affect their jobs and their homes – when they see that their neighborhood is in a flood zone and projections for what that means with a foot of sea level rise, you’ll get their attention.  In many instances, these professionals will also be able to leverage such training to satisfy continuing education requirements that they need to address for their own professional credentials.
  3. Customized Training for Key Leaders and Professionals– At some point, you need to move from awareness to building specific competencies and skills based upon a particular need.  What you want an infrastructure professional to be able to do and know is very different than what you might want a supply chain professional to know.  So once you have covered foundational training that addresses the masses, look at options to access or develop training specific to their professional functions.  ACCO is developing these sorts of courses, but credentialing bodies such as the American Institute of ArchitectsAmerican Society of Civil Engineers and American Planning Association will answer the charge if they hear from employers that these skills are needed.  Again, these professionals will also be able to leverage such training to satisfy continuing education requirements that they need to address for their professional credentials.
  4. Updating Job Descriptions– Your head of civil works has just retired and you’re looking to replace that person.  Before you do, take a look at the job description and requirements and see what you can do to ensure that you are getting applicants who have better skills suited for this transformation.  The more you incorporate climate-related competencies into job descriptions, the better your pool of candidates will be – and perhaps most importantly, when credentialing bodies and universities see this change in job requirements, they will update their curriculum requirements.  In the long run, taking this critical step will ensure that it becomes integrated throughout your workforce.  If you’re not sure what skills and competencies to include in a job description, reach out to the corresponding credentialing body to ask them what they’re hearing about the nexus of climate change and their credential.  If that doesn’t work, come to ACCO and we’ll help you work through that process.
  5. Updating RFPs, Procurements & Contracts– Make sure that you engage service providers, vendors and consultants that understand your climate risks.  Procure goods and services from those that can help you achieve your mitigation, adaptation and resilience goals. Every dollar that you put out to purchase goods and services or build and maintain infrastructure is a dollar that should be wisely spent.  If you’re purchasing a good that is sourced from a water-intensive vendor or region while you’ve declared a water-reduction goal for the city hardly seems sensible.  Of course, neither is investing millions of dollars in an infrastructure project that doesn’t account for foreseeable risks posed by climate change.  This is a risk management conversation.  While the risks that any specific impact of climate change may seem low in probability, if the magnitude of the realization of that risk is costly or intolerable, then you have a business case for accounting for this today.
  6. Engage the Community– You’ve just accomplished a fantastic project building a levee to reduce flood risk.  Congratulations.  The problem is that the average person walking by has no idea what was done.  If you want to build public will, you need to engage them regularly, and even need to get creative with generating buzz and awareness.  The City of Miami Beach is raising roads in the Sunset Harbor area of the island by 2.5 feet.  They’ve branded the effort “Flooding Solutions” and even created a hashtag, #MBRisingAbove, and a web site at www.MBRisingAbove.com.  Public support is needed for this type of expensive investment in adaptation to reduce risk.  Showcase your efforts. And remember that we all have short memories: that flood that washed away a road 3 years ago is a distant memory to most.  Engaging the community on these concerns will help to ensure that these issues are a primary dialogue in mayoral elections—just ask Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine, whose campaign focused intensively on the city’s flood problems related to sea level rise and stormwater management.

Changing culture and building public will isn’t rocket science, but it takes concerted, strategic effort.  Everything is by design.  Create the structure, find the right people, give them the tools they need and you have reinvented local government. Put a game plan together that exponentially increases the number of assets you have in this battle.  Think about what assets you need, where you need them, and go make that happen.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a few years using these basic steps.

Tags:  adaptation  capacity building  climate  climate change  education  engagement  training 

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Equipping Business Leaders with the Skills to Tackle Climate Change

Posted By Philip Santiago, Association of Climate Change Officers, Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Whereas decision makers in large institutions have traditionally been challenged in long-term planning, particularly as it pertains to taking action on climate change, shrewd and savvy business leaders today are developing the capabilities to address short-term needs while planning on multi-decadal timescales. Why? Because, quite frankly, the impacts of climate change are clear and present, and can no longer be ignored.  Suddenly, and across the board, climate change has become an everyday concern – entire economies will need to find ways to adapt to new conditions in a changed world. 

Companies that want to thrive in ten to twenty years should be tasking their absolute best strategic and systems thinkers with addressing the risks and opportunities that climate change will present to their businesses.  They should be closely monitoring the latest climate science and performing enterprise-wide risk analyses to determine weaknesses, hone in on opportunities and develop strategies for action.  They should be creating adaptation plans, investing heavily in renewable energy generation, squeezing every last ounce of efficiency out of their facilities and finding new operational and logistical solutions for their core business practices.

I am both proud and excited to work at the Association of Climate Change Officers at this pivotal moment in history.  ACCO has forged a community including many of the most competent practitioners and educators in the climate field. The ideas they share in our conferences and collaborations help catalyze movements within the organizations of our membership and attendees.

It's exciting to be involved with ACCO because the training that we provide through our CCO CertificationTM Program gives the business person and organization of the present precisely the skills and strategies needed to look climate change squarely in the face and say, "I can beat you."  ACCO provides the knowledge and the community support that people working on climate need – regardless of their intersection with it – in order to tackle this most important of jobs.

The Women's Climate Collaborative, an initiative launched by ACCO in 2014, is growing into a vibrant community right in stride. Over 300 individuals registered for a recent WCC webinar, and a case study series the group has launched has already highlighted the work and insights of three amazing leading women in the climate field.

I look forward to the future we can build. Let's tackle this thing, together.

Tags:  Education  Long-term Planning  Training 

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Vulnerability Assessment Training Bootcamp: A Participant Synopsis

Posted By Lia Nicholson, Government of Antigua & Barbuda, Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On Wednesday September 24th, I suspended my post-Climate Summit activities with the United Nations to attend the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) bootcamp, “Conducting a Vulnerability Assessment and Developing an Adaptation Plan.” The training was attended by the private sector, government, and non-governmental organizations, both domestic and international, as a precursor to the Rising Seas Summit, held on September 24-26 in New York and in partnership with Climate Week NYC.

Personally, the training was a high priority as the following week I was to begin a year-long fellowship, supported by the Gruber Program, to implement adaptation solutions in three flood-prone communities in the small island state of Antigua & Barbuda. The mandate of the project, implemented by the Government’s Environment Division, was to develop and implement adaptation solutions in consultation with community members. ACCO’s training presented an opportunity to expand my portfolio of assessment and consultation tools.

The session was moderated by Adam Whelchel, Director of Science at the Nature Conservancy, who introduced a panel of four speakers. Each speaker presented a case study, followed by breakout groups for participants to work on one of the four cases.

Olga Dominguez, formerly the Assistant Administrator at the Office of Strategic Infrastructure in the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, presented the Washington DC case. Adaptation challenges were ecological, notably the extensive marshlands and one and a half foot tidal range, as well as political, with a framework of complex property rights and resources that are, “owned by everybody and nobody.”

The Commissioner of the Department of Environment in the City of Boston, Nancy Girard, presented the case study for Boston. Nancy presented maps dating to 1630 and contrasted the cartography with the city’s present layout, highlighting the extent of development on coastal infill and consequential resilience challenges.

Pinar Balci, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, presented the case for New York. Pinar highlighted the Catskills watershed and coastal challenges of adaptation. She emphasized the importance of establishing climatic thresholds for planning—given the range of climate projections and timeframes, “what are we going to protect ourselves from?”

The fourth and final case was Providence, Rhode Island, presented by Hope Herron, Senior Policy Analyst & Climate Adaptation Specialist at Tetra Tech. The adaptation challenges that Providence faces include the submergence of the airport, seaport, and historical districts in a 100-year flood event and sea level rise projections. Hope focused in on the public health impacts of climate change, citing the spread of the vector-borne Lyme disease transmitted through ticks. A rise in temperatures and longer summers leads to ticks remaining active for longer and inhabiting more regions.

Providence was my case study group. We began by responding to the question, “What excites you most about climate change.” It was an unexpected but welcome take on the topic, and the ice-breaker question elicited just that—participants described daily motivations to be excited to work on one of the most complex issues of our times.

Hope, our group facilitator, presented a matrix developed by the Adam Whelchel at the Nature Conservancy, to guide our vulnerability assessment discussion (Table 1). The first step was to identify priority hazards, followed by vulnerable assets in three categories—infrastructure, societal assets, and ecosystems. Finally, we filled in the matrix with actionable items that would mitigate the hazards, guided by the following questions: what infrastructure is exposed? What makes it vulnerable? What are the consequences of inaction? Each actionable item was ranked by high, medium or low priority, and by short-term or long-term implementation.

The matrix generated a rich discussion; yet due to limited time we only scratched the surface of the issues, assets and actions for Providence. With more time, we could take the analysis further by defining our thresholds, as recommended by Pinar.

A notable point of discussion was the challenge of isolating interlinked hazards. For example, despite similarities, storm surge is an infrequent, extreme hazard that can require different adaptation responses, such as emergency measures, compared to slow-onset sea level rise. At the same time, however, the two hazards can be mitigated by, for example, retreat policies.

On a similar note, solutions are also interlinked, and an action that mitigates risks to one vulnerable asset can mitigate risks in another category. For example, the actions that we identified for water systems—hardening infrastructure, planning and implementing retreat—can also be applied to power supply/energy infrastructure. Identifying synergies is important because the two sectors may be managed by different government entities. The risk matrix is a useful tool for defining and clarifying underlying assumptions about priority hazards, assets, and actions that converge to formulate a city-wide policy response to climate change.

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Tags:  Adaptation  Sea Level Rise  Vulnerability 

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Framing Climate Change as a National Security Threat

Posted By Meaghan Bresnahan, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, July 31, 2014
At the National Security and Climate Change discussion in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, it was noted repeatedly that although many people may not yet realize it, climate change is impacting the world here and now. As Ian Kraucunas of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory stated, “We are already seeing an increase in certain types of events that are consistent with what [scientists] would expect from climate change, although we can’t attribute any one event to it.”

It is therefore vital that the United States, at the national and local levels, rapidly advances its adaptation and mitigation plans. As such, Kraucunas called on scientists to do a better job of informing decision making by targeting their scientific conclusions and putting them in context for legislators. The panelists further urged those active in the climate change discussion to frame it from a national security point of view.

Craig Gannett of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation noted that the definition of a national security threat has expanded to include massive disruptions caused by climate change. Climate change will increasingly lead to droughts, floods, wildfires, and sea level rise. These effects are going to be major stressors on already unstable nations, potentially increasing the likelihood that they devolve into conflict. Our military will provide aid for increasingly frequent and severe disasters, stretching our own resources even thinner. Domestic agricultural production is also likely to be negatively impacted, and transport may become more difficult and expensive.

Larry Phillips, the chair of the King County Council, summarized the issue elegantly: “Climate change threatens economic security, which is the foundation of national security.” Kraucunas further noted that “climate change is complicating existing threats to national security and raising new ones.”

The melting ice in the Arctic is creating one of those new challenges for the Navy. Commander John Marburger indicated that there will be a potential threat to global security as Arctic sea ice continues to decline and traffic through this newly opened route increases. However, he also stated that the Arctic provides the United States “a chance to get [adaptation] right the first time” through preparation, planning, and international collaboration.

Alice Hill, a senior advisor on the White House National Security Council, highlighted one of the United States’ most decisive efforts toward addressing climate change: President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The plan’s three pillars involve mitigation, adaptation, and leading international efforts. The more success we have at the local and federal levels with the first two pillars, the better we will be able to address this evolving national security threat. Further, the longer we wait to take action, the more expensive it will be to combat the effects of climate change. To put it another way, Marburger stated, “disaster prevention is less expensive than disaster relief.”

Kraucunas concluded, “There are things we can do to avoid the unmanageable and to manage the unavoidable.” The sooner the United States initiates serious measures toward mitigation and adaptation, the more we minimize the threat of climate change to our national security.

Tags:  Adaptation  Climate Action Plan  National Security 

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