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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME

6 December 2017

US Government disbands panel on climate resilience in cities

On Monday, it was announced that the panel responsible for advising cities and communities on climate resilience and adaptation in the US will be disbanded.

The Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems was created in 2015 by former US President Barack Obama after the unprecedented damage that Hurricane Sandy caused.

Its main responsibilities were to advise local governments on how to make buildings, communications, energy systems, transportation and water infrastructures more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change.

Jesse Keenan, Chairman of the panel told Bloomberg that “it was one of the last federal bodies that openly talked about climate change in public”.

He added: “I can say that we tried our best and we never self-censored”.

Mr. Keenan, who at the same time is a researcher at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design focusing on climate adaptation, explained that the panel was the federal government’s primary external engagement for resilience in the built environment. It included representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as city planners and external shareholders.

Brendan Doyle, EPA’s representative on the panel said: "It was a way of helping communities not only through the recovery process, but to help them adjust to a new normal, in ways that would make them more resilient to the next disaster”.

Jennifer Huergo acted as a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)- one of the member federal agencies of the panel , and argued that the decision was made “without influence of any NIST political leadership”, and that, instead, it was made by staff within the institute’s Community Resilience Programme.

“They conducted an assessment of the Panel and its mission and determined that, while the Panel has made progress on achieving its first goal of promoting collaboration among stakeholders, the second goal of considering standards and best practices has been much more challenging”.

“NIST has therefore decided to transition to a national workshop as a more effective and efficient way to convene stakeholders and advance community resilience”, she added.

 She said that there are plans to re-launch the panel in the autumn of 2018, and continue its mission, although she did not explain the reason behind the delay.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics has stated that climate adaptation and resilience to extreme weather events is an issue that requires “urgent action”.  

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