What should you expect from a climate planning consultant?
Professional consultants can often help local leaders and staff, but many consultants are also new to climate resilience or adaptation planning. Since the field does not have professional certification, it can be difficult to know whether a consultant will follow the generally accepted principles of this new field.
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. Develop Climate projections from a reputable source 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 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 the 5th and 95th percentiles for non-scientists.
2. Utilize Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5. For climate resilience purposes, using RCP 8.5 (higher emissions) is appropriate as this presents a realistic and conservative emissions pathway given that aggressive action to curtail emissions is not happening at the necessary scale globally. It is also useful to have the consultant compare RCP 8.5 to RCP 2.6 as RCP 2.6 represents drastic emissions reductions. Having a comparison like this can help motivate the community to undertake emissions reduction work alongside or following the resilience planning process.
3. Communicate historic trends and calculations of future climate extremes specific to the community. It is best if the extremes to be assessed are identified within your community process beforehand and have the benefit of input by local experts and leaders. Your RFP should also require review and involvement by trusted scientists familiar with existing stressors, climate change impacts, and natural systems in the planning area.
4. Require communication materials for laypeople. Climate change projections in a format the public and local leaders can understand is critically important in this process. Given that people rarely read written reports anymore, you may specifically ask that these communication materials be made available in a dynamic online format that can be widely distributed. (Example: https://prezi.com/tavfbaikives/hot-enough-yet/). This will be in addition to a full written report.
1. Ask specifically for a highly collaborative and cross-sector process that identifies, categorizes, and prioritizes vulnerabilities across the community based on exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.
2. Require that the process include at least one workshop of representatives from a variety of community sectors to identify and prioritize community vulnerabilities. Example community sectors include:
- infrastructure (buildings, roads, bridges, wastewater, energy, etc.)
- social (health, emergency response, vulnerable populations, etc.)
- cultural (tribal, minority or disadvantaged communities, etc.)
- economic (tourism, agriculture, forestry, other primary economic activities)
- natural resources (aquatic, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems)
- efforts to address chronic community challenges, such as poverty, unemployment, ﬂooding, health issues, or pollution included in the planning process.
Resilience Planning and Implementation
1. Facilitate a cross-sector workshop to develop strategies that address the priority vulnerabilities identified in the vulnerability assessment with involvement by both formal and informal leaders of the community, including city department heads, elected officials, 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
2. Require implementation details
- Prioritization of strategies based on mid- to long-term goals and objectives, local values, protection of vulnerable populations and resources, and viability over time
- Consideration of impacts to future populations and resources alongside impacts to current residents
- Implementation steps, timeline, and responsible entities identified and the work is integrated into existing community governance systems
- Integration with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Monitoring and assessment plan to test assumptions, 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. Required to build awareness of challenges and vulnerabilities and to develop support for implementation of selected actions
2. Ensure it is effective engagement designed to solicit information from the community, particularly those who are traditionally underserved. This is not public relations in the sense of “selling” the plan to the community so make sure you are clear about your requirements. If you are asking for heavy engagement, know that it takes time and be prepared in terms of your budget and timeline.
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.