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  • municipal plan type
  • adaptation type to see suggested actions
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Communication & Engagement

Basic principles of public engagement with climate adaptation:

Public engagement enables everyone to participate in environmental and civic decisions in a meaningful and productive way. Climate adaptation is evolving and dynamic, requiring an interactive and continuous process among scientists, practitioners and the public. Municipal officials, planners, and the public need to be informed about current scientific and municipal planning information in order to understand, respond to, and prepare for the effects of climate change.

Involving the public in climate change science and policy is crucial for citizen understanding and partnership in adaptation. Scientists and municipal officials need to be able to translate complex scientific concerns about climate risk, risk analysis, and adaptation in a way that can be understood by non-experts so that the public can be informed and active in concerns that affect them.

Engaging the public can take many forms, from providing information to providing input into decision making. Decades of research and municipal experiences with public participation suggest that differences in the degree of power and influence among those involved can undermine even the best-intentioned process into frustrating and non-productive ends.

In order for public participation to be constructive, it is important to:
• be clear about the goals and processes of the engagement
• adapt the engagement strategy to the context of the issue and stakeholders
• include the public as early and often as possible
• adapt the communication strategy to evolving dynamics
• be inclusive and equitable across citizen demographics, knowledge, influence and values
• inform and engage to contribute to mutual respect and understanding
• enable consensus versus confrontation
• support long-term relationships between agencies and stakeholders

When public engagement is done successfully, it can improve the quality of decision-making, increase legitimacy of decisions for stakeholders, and increase the likelihood that decisions will be implemented. Additional readings and links about public participation are provided below.

Resources:
1. Connecting on Climate Communications Guide - CRED and ecoAmerica.
2. Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.
3. Yale Project on Climate Communication.
4. ecoAmerica
5. Community Resilience Building Workshop site, used by the Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. 
6. The New England Climate Adaptation Project uses role-play simulation exercises and teaching notes for local community education and engagement with climate change risks and impacts..
7. The Institute for Local Government provides a portal about best practices for engaging the public in climate-related action and policy.
8. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guide for engaging with the public concerning environmental concerns and decisions.
9.  From California, a local official’s guide to engaging the public in climate-related action and policy.
10. Information portal in the European Climate Adaptation Platform is an interactive site to inventory knowledge about adaptation methods in the form of briefs and webinars and provide a platform for practitioners to exchange ideas.

References:
-Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) and ecoAmerica. (2014). Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. NY and Washington, DC.
-Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of planners, 35(4), 216-224.
-Few, Roger, Brown, Katrina, Tompkins, Emma. 2005. Public participation and climate change adaptation
-Rowe, G., & Frewer, L. J. (2000). Public participation methods: A framework for evaluation. Science, technology & human values, 25(1), 3-29

Planning

Why Adaptation?

Adaptation can minimize the impacts of climate change at the local level. Municipal actions can cool environments, reduce flooding, and proactively address the impacts of sea level rise. The core of adaptation is that the choices made now are based on climate projections and specific vulnerabilities, and designed to function under the climate of the future. Over the long term, the community will save money as forward planning results in infrastructure that’s suited to a changing climate, rather than having it be outdated and undersized very quickly.

Municipal Adaptation Planning

Preparing your community or site to be climate-adapted takes simple steps that are generally very similar to planning you have done before. There are two primary approaches that can be used:
• Prepare an independent climate action plan
• Integrate adaptation into an existing plan

The most comprehensive approach is preparing a plan that looks at all aspects of climate mitigation and adaptation and then identifies all the other plans and regulations that need to change to implement the climate action plan. The goals and values, climate projections, community wide vulnerability, proposed steps, and implementation and monitoring that are included in this climate action plan can then be taken up in other plans. This comprehensive approach allows you to consider both reducing greenhouse gasses (mitigation) and preparing for future climate (adaptation) together, which can be beneficial to be sure that you are not proposing options that harm one or the other (maladaptation).

Alternatively, your municipality may choose to integrate climate change directly into existing plans when they are being revised. We present information on a number of plans here (choose a plan on the left). This integration may also be a step toward implementing your stand-alone climate action plan. The first step in all cases will be a vulnerability assessment.

There are no adaptation actions for the plan type(s) selected.

Action

We can take meaningful action now to address the impacts of climate change on our natural resources. Explore suggested adaptation strategies and actions below. Narrow your search using the filters on the left or start with one of the Explore By Topic buttons on the home page.

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