Jim Stiles: Local leadership is essential to adapt to climate change

This commentary is written by Jim Stiles of St. Albans, a volunteer working with the Weatherization at Scale Coalition subgroup of the Energy Action Network, which focuses on technical approaches to achieving Vermont weathering goals.

How do we get the best future for Vermont? The list of things to do to achieve this goal is long. Social justice, equality and better health care are all near the top.

However, it’s safe to say that if we don’t tackle the climate-related challenges, Vermont’s future isn’t looking very bright.

Now that the highly anticipated Vermont Climate Action Plan has been released, the process of working with it begins. Fortunately, this is a good plan. The Vermont Climate Council deserves credit for having put it in place within a very tight deadline. He also deserves credit for listening during the public feedback process. The plan is better for that.

Despite its many merits, the plan is flawed. Most problems are small and easy to solve. For example, the climate assessment section provides good detailed information on things like the frequency of cold spells. Unfortunately, it does not address the intensity of these cold spells, which would help farmers and others plan their responses.

A bigger problem with the climate assessment is the fact that it was provided very late in the process of assembling the plan, meaning it could not inform other work that went into the plan. . Going forward, an updated assessment should be completed well before the groundwork of developing an updated plan is completed.

Small issues like these can be found throughout the document, but shouldn’t be of great concern. Every shot, no matter how good, can always be improved. What concerns me more is another kind of problem. It looks like the Vermont Climate Council has done a very good job with issues that centralized authorities can effectively resolve. However, it has performed less well on issues that require statewide leadership. It is above all a problem for adaptation to the climate, which will be mainly local in nature.

In my opinion, the most important goal of climate adaptation is to turn every community and neighborhood in Vermont into climate havens – places that will help protect residents from the worst impacts of climate change. To do this, communities across Vermont must figure out how to meet the needs of their residents effectively and efficiently.

A special perspective – meeting the needs of newborns, both now and throughout their lives – brings the greatest clarity to what we need to do. As children today will face increasingly serious challenges related to climate change throughout their lives, it is incumbent on the responsible adults in every community to begin to understand what it means to take care of them. their children and provide them with a bright future, given the unique challenges their communities face.

It may seem like a tall order. Fortunately, our answers don’t have to be perfect. But we have to get down to business.

Many communities will not solve these big problems without the help of the state. However, local leadership will be essential. Fortunately, we can draw inspiration from the examples of local energy committees. Some local energy committees have tackled particularly difficult energy and climate issues. Most years most committees don’t, but all energy committees resolve some issues each year. As the most creative and engaged energy committees solve difficult problems, they set precedents which can then be adapted by other communities.

We should embrace this process for use with climate adaptation. Given how little understanding we have about climate change adaptation, drawing local attention to climate adaptation can help everyone understand what successful climate change adaptation will look like. Creative problem solving by communities can play an important role in creating a great future.

The failures of COP26 have shown even more clearly that the chances of avoiding major climate change are practically non-existent. We are going to have to live with climate change as its impacts worsen.

To be successful, it is no longer enough to focus on solving individual problems, which is what the Climate Action Plan often does. Rather, communities, led by caring and committed people, must undertake the complex transformation required to preserve prosperity in the face of climate adversity. No community, state agency, or other organization is going to solve this transformative puzzle, but encouraging innovation at all levels and sharing our successes, as well as our failures, is an important part of creating good plans.

For starters, making communities highly practicable makes them resilient and effective. Improving community planning can help house people, especially the elderly and others with reduced mobility, close to the services and amenities they need, which is a win for all.

Another example is local, soil-friendly agriculture, which can produce better food and deliver it fresh to communities with minimal transport needs. The list of opportunities to benefit from a good climate adaptation process is long.

Just as the past decades have transformed Vermont and our planet, Vermont’s transformation will continue in the decades to come. If we are smart and work hard, the results can be mostly good. Creating systemic, community-based climate solutions that help create lasting, lasting prosperity for all will make Vermont better.

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Tags: climate change, Jim Stiles, local adaptation, local leadership


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