50 Top US Mayors Launch Fight For Climate Change Resiliency

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Local governments are on the front lines of America’s climate change fight, charged with the first response in any extreme weather event. But after $188 billion in damage since 2011 and a federal government denying the problem exists, local leaders have taken matters into their own hands.

Resilient Communities For America
Resilient Communities For America logo via RC4A

Earlier this week more than 50 US mayors and county elected officials launched the Resilient Communities for America (RC4A) campaign by committing to build stronger communities that can meet their own energy needs and withstand the relentless onslaught of heat waves, floods, droughts, severe storms, and wildfires.

The RC4A inaugural signatories represent every corner of the US, from Sacramento and Denver to Des Moines and Washington DC, testimony to the fact that four of five Americans live in counties hit by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster in the past six years.

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Climate Change Requires Community Resiliency

America’s resilient future means building communities capable of sustainably bouncing back from disasters and uncertain climate change impacts. RC4A’s action continues the momentum created by a series of recent announcements from governments in New York City and major cities around the world who aren’t waiting around for national or international climate action.

Superstorm Sandy Brooklyn flooding
Superstorm Sandy Brooklyn flooding image via Shutterstock

“A new national movement is emerging, led by mayors who believe that now is the time to take powerful, proactive steps to safeguard our communities, adapt to extreme weather and energy challenges, and transform adversity into economic opportunity,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, RC4A campaign chair.

Resiliency Roadmap And Resources 

While the sheer diversity of US communities and differing effects of climate change mean no one approach will work in every location, RC4A has prioritized four broad actions to ensure resiliency: preparing for climate change and extreme weather, expanding renewables and energy efficiency, renewing infrastructure, and strengthening local economies.

In addition to building momentum for national climate action from the local level, RC4A will also provide free technical resources to help elected officials meet their local resilience needs. An online resource platform will launch in fall 2013 to include guidebooks and case studies, webinar training, software tools, and an online “answers network.”

By preparing before disasters hit, local governments can both save lives and save money. “Focusing on preparedness is incredibly cost-effective, said Jason Hartke of RC4A partner US Green Building Council (USGBC). “For every $1 spent on disaster preparedness, a community can save $4 in avoided costs.”

Resilient Communities For America partners
Resilient Communities For America partner logos image via RC4A

In addition to USGBC, the National League of Cities, World Wildlife Fund, and ICLEI USA are coordinating the RC4A campaign. These organizations have agreed to devote their resources to increasing climate resiliency by including 2,100 local governments, 25,000 municipal officials, 200,000 LEED-credentialed sustainability professionals, and 1 million environmental activists in the campaign. RC4A is led by ICLEI, which has already helped 20 communities in their resiliency planning.

“Plenty Of Inspiration But Far Less Time”

The campaign aims to sign up 200 local governments by June 2014 and 1,000 by 2015 in order to build climate resiliency across America, secure greater federal and state funding support, and expand collaboration among governments at all levels.

Elected officials can sign onto the campaign via RC4A’s one-page campaign agreement, and unelected community members can get involved by working with their government officials and increasing local disaster preparedness.

So regardless of where your community is located or which climate change challenges it faces, the journey to a resilient future begins now. “We’ve got plenty of inspiration but far less time,” said Mayor Johnson. “If we start today, we can make safer and healthier place for ourselves and preserve them for our children and grandchildren.”

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