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Connecting the Dots: Adaptation + Mitigation Synergies

Since 2006, CCAP has encouraged communities, companies and policymakers to Ask the Climate Question – How will infrastructure, land development, policy and investment decisions affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and vulnerability or resilience to climate change impacts?

We now challenge you to Connect the Dots between climate mitigation and climate adaptation, and implement policies and measures that both reduce GHG emissions and enhance resilience to climate change impacts. As former HUD Deputy Secretary and King County Executive Ron Sims put it, “It’s like breathing and eating” – we must reduce GHGs and adapt. And as Lucille Sering, secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said at a recent CCAP workshop, “Mitigation is part of our preparedness.”

President Obama’s new Executive Order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” and recent Climate Action Plan directs federal agencies to ask the Climate Question and provide policy support and technical assistance to help federal, state and local governments, and private companies answer both parts of the Question — mitigation and adaptation.

The nexus between adapting to a changing climate and reducing GHGs is rarely approached in an integrated fashion. Many climate adaptation measures have GHG mitigation benefits and vice versa, yet too often the synergies only receive cursory attention. CCAP sees great opportunities in focusing on that sweet spot in the center of the Venn diagram.

CCAP has started to document a number of measures with both GHG mitigation and resilience benefits – here are just a few examples:

  • Green Infrastructure. Green roofs, urban forestry, permeable pavement and open space protection can reduce building energy use, ameliorate urban heat and mitigate stormwater.

  • Resilient Power. Integrates grid resilience, energy efficiency and distributed renewables to provide reliable, low-carbon power that can withstand and recover from extreme weather events. Includes microgrids, onsite combined heat and power (CHP) and smart grid technologies. Pareto Energy has important ideas and experience on sustainable microgrids. Also see insightful reports from USDOE on energy sector resilience and UCS on energy-water collisions.

  • Resilient Buildings. Building weatherization and design measures can reduce energy use and protect buildings from severe storms. Incorporating Resilient Power can minimize business interruption losses. The US Green Building Council has been a leader in this area, as has the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety with their Fortified Program. Also see the NYC Building Resiliency Task Force reports.

  • Protecting Sustainable Transportation. As Steve Winkelman presented at the Volpe National Transportation Center, flood prevention for subway systems and shading of pedestrian and cycling facilities help keep low-carbon transportation systems in service and provide network redundancies and alternative modes for emergency evacuation.

  • Water Use Efficiency and Conservation.Water conservation reduces energy use for pumping and treatment, and helps communities and water utilities prepare for droughts. State-of-the-art wastewater treatment facilities in King County, Washington and Clayton County, Georgia are saving money, reducing GHGs and enhancing climate resilience.

Connecting Adaptation and Mitigation efforts can be thought of as a continuum. The Connect-the-Dots process can start from either an adaptation or mitigation measure, or can result from Asking the Climate Question of current policies and investments.

For example, when setting new building codes for storm and flood resilience, consider energy and water efficiency as well. When implementing transit oriented development (TOD), include green infrastructure to address heat and stormwater. When investing in renewable energy, make sure that the power grid is resilient to extreme weather.

The new State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience established by the President includes 8 state, 16 local and 2 tribal officials, and presents an excellent opportunity to provide a framework of financial and policy incentives to help Connect the Dots and maximize benefits.

We encourage all of our partners to examine your portfolios and look for connect-the-dot opportunities. Follow the money. If you’re investing in mitigation consider how you can increase adaptation benefits; and vice versa.

On the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, let’s take a moment to reflect on the $19 billion in losses for NYC, and Swiss Re analysis indicating that losses from such an event in 2050 would increase to $90 billion due to climate change. We tend to spend more on cleaning up after disasters than preventing them. Yet we know that planning ahead pays. The bottom line is that “Connecting the Dots” can increase return on investments in mitigation and adaptation.

In future blog posts and webinars we will delve into specific sectors, looking for Connect-the-Dot opportunities. In the meantime, we welcome your input on A+M synergies and conflicts.


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