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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. 

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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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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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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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