Partnering for Climate Action
Climate Partners meeting
At a recent meeting, the Climate Partners set their goal: to "prepare local communities to adapt to and confront the impacts of climate change." The team includes, from left, Sasha Land, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve -- MD; Vicky Carrasco, Maryland Sea Grant Extension; and Gwen Shaughnessy, Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Credit: Erica Goldman.

THE THIRD-FLOOR LIBRARY at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Annapolis looks out over Tawes Garden, a patch of vibrant green in a complex of otherwise gray buildings. On a windy day in November, a group of "Climate Partners" gathers here for a kick-off meeting of sorts. Their goal is to take stock of the programmatic and funding landscape for climate change adaptation in the state of Maryland — starting with programs that receive funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They want to figure out how their programs align and how they can best collaborate to take advantage of each other's strengths and pool their resources.

Sasha Land called the meeting. She runs the Coastal Training Program for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a partnership between NOAA and the coastal states. She's about to embark on a 5-year strategic planning exercise for her program and wants to understand how key partnerships can factor in.

Vicky Carrasco, Coastal Community Specialist for Maryland Sea Grant Extension, sits at the table. She represents the growing role of Maryland and National Sea Grant in the climate change and climate adaptation arena. She's currently involved in two key projects around climate change adaptation, and she's eager to advance her efforts through collaboration.

Gwen Shaughnessy is also there. She works with DNR's Maryland Chesapeake and Coastal Program and represents the state's efforts in climate change adaptation, much of which comes as an outgrowth of the 2008 Maryland Climate Action Plan (see For More Information).

First order of business: adopt a common mission statement that they can use to reach other players down the road. The partners agree to keep it simple. Their collective goal will be to "prepare local communities to adapt to and confront the impacts of climate change."

Next comes the hard part. The partners need to talk through and map the landscape of their programs to figure out how their efforts may align. Land brings out a flipchart and a set of different-colored markers. It will work better for them to see things laid out on paper — especially since there's likely to be a sea of acronyms.

Land begins. She's responsible for outreach under the Adaptation Response Working Group — which emerged directly from the Maryland Climate Action Plan. She plans to develop a series of six training workshops per year for local governments and planners over the next year. The first step, she says, is a "needs assessment" to determine what local communities really require in terms of technical assistance.

Carrasco jumps in next. She's working on two projects related to climate change adaptation and has several others in the hopper. One is through the Coastal Community Climate Adaptation Initiative (CCCAI), funded by the NOAA National Sea Grant Office. It aims to enhance climate outreach efforts in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region. The project will fund regional meetings between local governments as a model for peer-to-peer interactions, to encourage communities to share information about challenges and opportunities related to incorporating climate change into community planning.

Maryland Sea Grant, in partnership with the Center for Watershed Protection, also plans to host "a regional forum for those who do outreach on climate change — a Who's Who and Who's Doing What." Carrasco is also working on a project that is part of a collaboration led by Oregon Sea Grant. The project, funded through the NOAA Sector Application Research Program (SARP), focuses on developing a survey instrument for Maryland's elected officials and planning staff to assess their needs in relation to adaptation to climate change.

Shaughnessy's program around climate change adaptation is already fairly extensive. As the lead from DNR on climate adaptation, she's responsible for administering the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) Section 309 program, which awards competitive grants to communities for developing strategies that best integrate projected climate change impacts into their planning. Projects focus on reducing community vulnerability to sea level rise through modification of ordinances, codes, and plans. She's also developed the Coast-Smart program, which combines technical mapping with outreach to communities (see Before the Next Flood). Other projects on her very full plate include serving as the state lead for the Climate Change Task Force and collaborating on a project between the Mid Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) and regional Sea Grant directors. Funded by NOAA, this effort connects Sea Grant to the governance structure for Coastal Zone Management to support projects specific to sea level rise.

The flipchart is beginning to fill up. Different colors — purple, green, and black — are assigned to each partner's programs. There are loads of acronyms and arrows to connect the dots. Land writes quickly, stopping from time-to-time to ask clarifying questions. A big picture for the Climate Partners collaboration is emerging. They decide that the first step will be a needs assessment to determine how the workshops that Land will be developing should be shaped. Shaughnessy points out that the workshops could serve as a roadmap of sorts. If developed in sequence, she says, the workshop series could help cue up a community so that it would be prepared to apply for funding under the Coast-Smart Communities Initiative (CZMA Section 309).

The Climate Partners huddle around the flipchart, focusing intently on their efforts to map out a set of next steps. They think that this collective approach will help everyone take advantage of each other's strengths and avoid duplication. At the end of the road, if all goes well, they hope that their efforts could enable real policy change — modifications in building codes or plans to make communities more resilient, better prepared to confront the climate challenges that lie ahead.

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