On April 22, 2015, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization on behalf of the Colorado Climate Network released the report of the Colorado Local Resilience Project, jointly convened by CCN and the Colorado Municipal League (CML) to develop an agenda to help make Colorado communities more resilient to possible climate change impacts, including increases in wildfires, floods, and health-threatening heat waves. In the project, 78 representatives of 30 local governments in Colorado and six other governmental and nonprofit entities active at the local level (such as local health departments and school districts) reached a consensus on six conclusions and 36 recommendations on what local governments can do, on their own and acting with others, to prepare for and address climate change impacts, and what they need from the state and federal governments and other sources to do so.
In short, the report calls on both local governments across Colorado and the state government to do more to assess and address climate-change-related risks, including more wildfires, more heat waves that cause illnesses and death, more extreme weather of all kinds including storms and floods, and more adverse effects on our forests and other ecosystems. As the report says: "The report is a call for action, beginning with a call for more local governments to take action in their own communities to improve their local resilience. Even more, though, our conclusions and recommendations focus on what local governments can do by working together, and on the partnerships we need with the state and federal governments and others to be effective in addressing climate-related risks, which do not respect governmental boundaries. Collaborative, coordinated actions among local governments and other levels of government will be essential to make our communities resilient."
More information is available in:
The news release announcing the report;
A four-page summary of the report.
"As the front line of direct contact with our state's residents, local government plays a necessary and crucial role in addressing climate-related risks. As with any other risk to health, safety and prosperity in our communities, local government must be an active participant," said Karen Weitkunat, who just completed her term as mayor of Fort Collins and who participated in the project. “The local risks posed by climate change may be new, but local government action to reduce local risks has been important for as long as we have had local government.”
Among the report’s recommendations are:
That Colorado local governments assess their local climate-related risks and undertake preparedness planning and management actions to improve resilience in their communities.
That local governments collaborate with one another and with the state and federal governments to coordinate the climate preparedness actions taken at the different levels of government.
That the state government establish an ongoing process to assess in detail Colorado’s climate-related risks and prepare a comprehensive state-government-wide preparedness plan. Because a state preparedness plan is needed to provide a framework for consistent, coordinated local actions, as well as to guide state government actions, it is important that local governments (as well as other stakeholders) have opportunities to contribute to the development of a state plan.
That the Colorado state government or another entity provide information to help local governments develop and implement effective preparedness actions.
That the Colorado state government elevate the priority, funding, and staffing devoted to climate preparedness.
“These are the kinds of actions that have been taken in many other states,” said Sam Mamet, the executive director of the Colorado Municipal League. “In Colorado, though, this is the first time that local officials and staff—or anybody else—have come together to develop a comprehensive, detailed agenda of the climate preparedness actions that make sense here.”
Participants in the project primarily include elected officials and program staff representing 30 local governments, includiing those of seven of the 10 largest counties and seven of the 11 largest cities in the state. Local governments represented are El Paso County, the City and County of Denver, Jefferson County Open Space, City of Colorado Springs, Larimer County, Boulder County, Douglas County, Pueblo County, the City of Lakewood, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Arvada, the City of Westminster, the City of Boulder, the City of Longmont, the City and County of Broomfield, Eagle County, the City of Golden, Pitkin County, the City of Durango, the City of Steamboat Springs, San Miguel County, the City of Aspen, the Town of Carbondale, the Town of Estes Park, the Town of Vail, the Town of Breckenridge, the Town of Frisco, the Town of Telluride, the Town of Nederland, and the Town of Dillon. Participants in the project also are from six other local government agencies and related organizations: the Boulder Valley School District, Denver Health, High Country Conservation Center (a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with local governments in Summit County), Poudre Fire Authority, the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments, and the Tri-County Health Department.
Individual participants in the project include 14 local elected officials (four county commissioners, three mayors, and seven city council members) and two top local government managers (one town manager and one town administrator). Most other individual participants are program staff members of local governments and agencies. The diversity of membership ensures a broad range of perspectives is considered in the project. Twelve state government agency staff members are working as liaisons between the state government and the project.
The participants worked in five work groups to prepare a single, combined report. The work groups addressed (1) cross-cutting issues (involving all sectors), (2) wildfire response and recovery, (3) infrastructure, (4) natural resources and outdoor recreation, and (5) public health.
This project is designed, in part, to take advantage of the new federal interest in cooperating with and assisting state and local governments in meeting climate resilience challenges -- an interest manifested by, among other actions, the appointment of and work of the President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which in November submitted its recommendations to the President. Mayor Karen Weitkunat of Fort Collins is a member of both the President's task force and the Local Resilience Project's infrastructure work group.
A second phase of the project will focus on implementation of the recommendations in the project report.
The project was announced on June 26, 2014, through a news release featuring statements by Mayor Weitkunat, CML Executive Director Mamet, and Stephen Saunders, the president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO), which administers the Colorado Climate Network. More information on the project is from Tom Easley, the director of programs at RMCO.