Climate change adaptation or resilience planning is a relatively new field. Hiring a consultant to oversee resilience planning can be very helpful, but because of the nascence of the field, there is significant variation from one consultant to another. Consultants may use different types of data and information, they may have different steps in the process, and they can produce quite a range of planning products. Professional certification in climate adaptation planning is rare, but becoming more common over time, which will help to create more consistency and standards. Because the field is still in flux, it can be difficult to assess whether a consultant will follow generally accepted resilience planning principles.
If you are hiring consulting services and want to secure the tenets of Whole Community Resilience planning, consider including the following in your RFP:
Local Climate Change Projections
1. Base planning on climate projections
Using the latest models, from a reputable source, create projections using one of three approaches:
- Scenario planning (creating climate storylines to help planners develop strategies that work across different possible future conditions);
- Bracketing (looking at 3–4 models that, specific to your region, represent the hotter, less hot, wetter, and drier extremes as well as the middle ground); or
- Ensembles based on 10 or more models and with consideration/explanation of variation among models (such as the 5th and 95th percentiles) and full range of potential projections.
2. Utilize higher emissions pathways
For climate resilience purposes, using RCP 8.5 (higher emissions) is appropriate at this time, because it is representative of the path the global community is currently on. By planning for higher emissions, the consultant will be less likely to underestimate the impacts (and create a lack of preparedness). It is also useful to have the consultant compare RCP 8.5 to RCP 4.5, as RCP 4.5 represents drastic emissions reductions. This can help people understand the significant value, both in lives and money, in reducing emissions.
3. Assess historic trends, future projections, and extreme events specific to your community
Have your RFP reviewed by trusted scientists and experts familiar with existing stressors, climate change impacts, and natural systems in the planning area. They can help to identify which climate extremes (e.g. heat waves, floods, crop freezes, forest fires, and other events) are most relevant to your community.
4. Require communication materials for laypeople
Climate change projections in a format the public and local leaders can understand are critically important. Oftentimes, projections are provided, but without an explanation of how to use them, how to manage uncertainty, and what they mean at the local level. These materials can also be made available in a dynamic online format that can be widely distributed. (Example: https://prezi.com/tavfbaikives/hot-enough-yet/).
1. Use a science-based process
Many climate resilience projects fail to link the climate projections (as detailed above) to specific and locally-relevant climate change risks to the community. Ensure that the RFP asks for a vulnerability assessment that identifies, categorizes, and prioritizes risks across all sectors of the community based on exposure (assessed using climate change projections), sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.
2. Hold a highly collaborative and cross-sector process
Require that the resilience planning process include one or more workshops that engage local experts from all community sectors to identify and prioritize vulnerabilities. The five community systems to engage across include:
- built (buildings, roads, bridges, water, energy, etc.)
- social (health, emergency response, vulnerable populations, etc.)
- cultural (native American tribes, minority or disadvantaged communities, etc.)
- economic (tourism, agriculture, forestry, technology, and other economic drivers)
- natural (aquatic, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems; endangered species)
In addition, be sure and include efforts to address ongoing chronic community challenges, such as poverty, unemployment, ﬂooding, health issues, or pollution in the planning process. Many co-benefits of climate change resilience measures will include solutions to these stressors as well.
Resilience Planning and Implementation
1. Focus on co-benefits and cross-sector collaboration
Work with the contractor to facilitate a cross-sector workshop to collaboratively develop strategies that address key vulnerabilities identified in the Vulnerability Assessment. This workshop should involve both formal and informal leaders of the community, including city staff, business leaders, faith communities, schools, emergency response professionals, public health professionals, tribal leaders, natural resource scientists and managers, NGOs, social equity leaders, climate scientists, and many others. Invitees should relevant local expertise and knowledge to contribute to the process.
2. Require implementation details
- Prioritization of strategies based on mid- to long-term goals and objectives, local values, protection of vulnerable populations and resources, effectiveness, and viability over time
- Consideration of impacts to future populations and resources alongside impacts to current residents
- Implementation steps, timeline, and responsible entities identified, as well as points of integration into existing community governance systems
- Integration with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Monitoring and assessment plan to assess progress, incorporate new information, and evaluate outcomes
- Dynamic framework that revisits goals, objectives, vulnerabilities, and actions over time as new information becomes available (recommend 3-5 years)
1. Create buy in through engagement
Ask your contractors to build awareness of climate-related risks, challenges and vulnerabilities. Continue to engage with community members so that there is support for implementation.
2. Ensure community input and collective decision-making
It is important to acknowledge that local community members are the experts on a variety of issues. Have the contractor design engagement to solicit information from the community, particularly those who are traditionally underserved, and use this information in the development of resilience strategies. When asking for community engagement, know that it takes time and trust, so adjust your budget and timeline accordingly.
1. Be realistic
Set a realistic timeline (generally at least 12 months) that allows your consultant to create a high quality product and for your community to develop the relationships that are essential for effective community involvement in the process and eventual implementation.