by Anisha Boucher, assistant program manager, Global Program Management, ICMA

In recent years, more and more people have been impacted by extreme natural disasters. With widespread fires, flooding, and droughts, there seems to be no end in sight as extreme events are expected to increase. These looming threats call on us to be proactive and protect our communities in the fight against climate change. Putting together a climate adaptation strategy can help ensure the health and safety of residents and shield local governments from irreversible damage in the future. Considering climate change during the land use planning process helps them understand how climate change influences local land use patterns now and in the future.

Still not convinced? Below are some benefits of climate adaptation strategy planning that ICMA learned from its work in the Dominican Republic, which are applicable globally, and were also included in Resilient Land Use and Development Planning for Dominican Municipalities: A Resource Notebook for Integrating Climate Change Considerations.

Prevent further development in vulnerable areas (at risk of coastal and riverine flooding or landslides).

Soft soils, often found near river banks and deltas, tend to be prime locations for development. They do, however, increase the ground motion during an earthquake and contribute to significant liquefication damage. Urbanization increases the impact of natural catastrophes, which leads to more property damage, while living in coastal communities exposes occupants to additional damage from wind and water, magnified by rising sea levels and land subsidence. Identifying the areas that are already weakened and setting parameters around them will keep them from continuing to deteriorate or risk being completely destroyed.

Reduce climate impacts to populations and assets already in at-risk areas.

For people living in areas recognized to be the first affected by extreme weather, planning ahead can ensure their safety. This could mean preparing to give additional support and resources for residents and property owners or creating an evacuation plan. Either way, preparation will be essential in these situations. Identify the best option for residents in the wake of a weather-related event, whether that means accommodation (adapting to the changes without using preventative measures), protection (creating barriers or building elevated houses), or retreat (evacuation as a response).

Foster metropolitan green systems and ecosystems-based adaptation to reduce urban heat and floods, while increasing biodiversity and improving urban landscape.

Mother nature creates ways to protect herself in times of danger, although it is not always understood. Natural habitats need to be preserved and restored in the face of increasing urbanization and the eradication of green spaces. Green infrastructure can combat floods and thwart droughts. Wetlands, for example, serve as a natural line of defense against hurricanes. To get started, take a look at Esri’s implementation checklist for green infrastructure planning.

Reduce negative synergies between climate and non-climate impacts by improving environmental quality and basic services.

The interconnectedness between the environment and community services can sometimes be taken for granted. Increased temperatures, for example, could increase electricity demand for cooling, which may strain the power system. Lack of solid waste management can lead to blocked drainage and as a result, increase flood extent and health exposure risk. For sanitation, high water tables during intense rainfall events lead to groundwater contamination from latrines or septic systems. Through understanding the cause and effect relationship between our actions and the environment, there is a better chance of finding solutions before making issues worse.

Develop and strengthen relationships and coordination across institutions, civil society, and key sectors to build capacity to manage climate vulnerabilities.

Working across teams tends to lead to better use of resources and solutions that work. Through public-private partnerships (P3s), urban resiliency can be better planned and implemented. ICMA was able to bring together three entities with specific skill sets: ATKINS, a global leader in engineering and applied science who was a resource partner; PUCMM Urban and Regional Studies Center (CEUR), a research center from local university Pontific Catholic University Matter et Magister (PUCMM); and LEAPFROG, a small business based in Mexico and co-owned by a Dominican urban planner to help the team during the planning process.

Identify and invest in priority research and information needs to improve monitoring and understanding of climate-related vulnerabilities.

Prioritizing time and resources to define the real problem your community faces will help develop the right strategies that will directly benefit it. There are a wide variety of options that local governments can choose from to reduce climate impacts, but the challenging part is finding out which strategy works best for the community. Every community is unique, and climate change will have specific implications depending on location, topography, and development patterns.

Many localities are paying more attention to how climate change is affecting their physical vulnerabilities, as well as health and safety. Don’t be the last one to come up with a plan of action.

The USAID/ICMA Planning for Climate Adaptation Program was aimed at improving the resilience of people living in cities of the Dominican Republic to the adverse impacts of climate change by working with municipalities to mainstream climate change adaptation (CCA) into their participatory land use planning processes. The program was implemented by ICMA, with the collaboration of three key partners: Federation of Dominican Municipalities (FEDOMU) as the local implementing arm; Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC) as the developer and administrator of most of the training activities; and ICF as the experts in adaptation planning.

These and other climate adaptation recommendations can be found in the ICMA Planning For Climate Adaptation Program in the Final Report.

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