Energized to Act Locally on Climate Change

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) provides keynote address at the New England Climate Leaders Summit, Nov. 8, 2014


On November 8, EPA’s New England office held a Climate Leaders Summit at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Leaders from municipalities, state agencies, academia, NGOs and businesses discussed how to prepare for the impacts of the changing climate. For example, in New England, we have seen a 74% increase in extreme precipitation over the last fifty years—what does that mean for our municipalities in terms of storm damage? Increases in stormwater? Overflowed water systems? Climate change is a condition we are currently living with, and it is a condition we must start adapting to.

President Obama called us to action to “support local climate-resilient investment by removing barriers or counterproductive policies and modernizing programs.” We must manage the risks of climate change through close collaboration and partnership across all levels. Addressing climate change is firstly a local challenge. To successfully prepare, communities must build new capabilities and find ways to implement strategies and actions that in the long-run will strengthen communities.

The New England Climate Summit was a first step in figuring out what we collectively need to do for climate resilience.  Five breakout discussions were held on:

  • Coordinating across public and private organizations;
  • Acquiring and applying locally relevant data;
  • Assessing vulnerability;
  • Communication and engagement;
  • Integrating adaptation into the municipal process.

Attendees made commitments to follow through with big ideas discussed in the breakout groups and we are in the determining next steps. In New England, there is no doubt about the effects of climate change. The good news is that more and more of our cities and communities are moving forward on how to prepare and become more resilient. We must do all we can to help by eliminating barriers and supporting these efforts. The long-term well-being of New England depends on our collaboration and partnerships.

Curt Spalding is the Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office, located in Boston.

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