In the spring of 2009, representatives from several South Florida counties and cities were making the rounds in the halls of the United States Congress to advocate for climate policy. Each had a story to tell of how their part of the peninsula was at risk and therefore needed Federal level support, particularly investment in adaptation and mitigation strategies. Each County had slightly different greenhouse gas emissions baselines, and each county had different sea level rise planning scenarios. A great deal of work had been invested by each jurisdiction, but the individual stories were not compelling enough. Cities with populations only in the thousands and tens of thousands don’t sway national policy, and no one was coming home with good news or dollars. The need for regional coordination became quite evident.
With more than 5.6 million residents in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties, exceeding the population of 30 of our nation’s individual states and representing almost one-third of Florida’s population, our region had a stronger voice.
More than that, it became clear that we individually could not take action even if we had the funding to explore strategies to deal with climate change. We share everything from the roadways to the beaches. We get our water from the same place. We experience the same storms and temperatures.
Partnering Today: The South Florida Regional Climate Compact
Fast forward less than five years and it is an entirely different situation. The individual cities and counties have moved beyond data collection to produce fully-formed planning documents and processes. Together, we’ve joined forces to address the aspects of natural resource protection, community preservation, livability and economic prosperity that are related to climate change and to set goals that are incorporated to and reflective of each of our strategic plans. This is known as “resilience regionalism”—the notion that we can address the climate issue better on a wider geographic scale.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact was formalized following the first Southeast Florida Climate Leadership Summit held in Fort Lauderdale in 2009. Local elected officials from throughout the region came together to discuss challenges and strategies for responding to the impacts of climate change. The Compact outlines an on-going collaborative effort among the Compact Counties and partners to foster sustainability and climate resilience at a regional scale. City staff has been instrumental in the development of the Regional Climate Action Plan adopted by Broward County in October 2012, and continues to play a key role in the regional efforts through the Compact Staff Steering Committee.
The end result is that we are getting national and international attention including from State and Federal legislators, and we are getting more of the support we need. For a more extensive list of our collaborative efforts, visit our Sustainability Partners page.
How Our Vision and Strategic Plan Addresses Climate Change
To put the Compact into action locally, the City of Fort Lauderdale uses a series of documents to guide local policy making, ordinances, building code, infrastructure development and more.
It all starts with our vision. Climate is front and center in our2035 Vision for the City of Fort Lauderdale. One of the six parts of our vision statement is “We are Ready: We are a resilient and safe coastal community.” As stated in the plan:
“The more resilient we make our beaches, drainage systems, bridges, roads and homes, the less damage inclement weather and high tides will inflict on our City. We will reduce our risks and avoid debilitating costs from disaster response and infrastructure rebuilding. As we make wise, calculated decisions about our infrastructure, we will be able to effectively manage increased water supply demands by reducing our per capita use and reuse. In addition, improved drainage of water and wastewater will ensure a cleaner water supply for our neighbors and visitors. Our investments in foundational infrastructure will continue to pay dividends by enhancing quality of life now and for future generations.”
What this means is that we have begun to factor climate change impacts, and specifically sea level rise, into all of our functional plans and operations, and that we are implementing programs and projects to respond to those anticipated impacts and update our infrastructure accordingly. Innovations such as tidal control valves, stormwater preserves, pervious paving, and bioswales are all things that you will read about on this website and begin to see happening in our community along with other sustainable public works and projects.
To implement this aspect of our vision, we utilize our five-year strategic plan and our Sustainability Action Plan. The Strategic Plan, Press Play, focuses our departments collectively on system-wide goals and accompanying scorecards track the implementation of individual strategies. Our Sustainability Action Plan is one of a number of key plans which contributed to the Strategic Plan.