One of the key differences between the implementation of climate adaptation and climate resilience strategies is in the degree and nature of community engagement. When building resilience, it is crucial to raise the level of climate education among the community that is going to have to develop its own responses over a long period of time. In a fascinating study for her Masters' degree, Hannah Payne, explored the awareness, capacity, and capability of city government planners (in the US) to put these kinds of educational programmes into place. She found only one City where effective education was taking place, in this case achieved through customised, relevant, role play activities. However, they were being implemented by university researchers rather than the planners themselves. Her work highlights a whole area of urban planning education that is capable of seriously hindering progress towards civic resilience.
Image source: By U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos Petty Officer 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Navy Public Affairs Support Elem (160430-N-GI544-075) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Payne, H (2016) Engaging the public in climate adaptation planning : lessons from sixteen American cities. Thesis: M.C.P., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 2016. (http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/105058)
With growing concern about the risks of climate change, cities are beginning to consider and implement strategies to adapt. Preparing for the impacts of climate change through adaptation planning requires cities to manage collective risks and weigh tradeoffs. Thus, recommendations for adaptation planning often call for public engagement and collaborative decision-making. This thesis reviews current public engagement practices in adaptation planning in sixteen cities across the United States that are pursuing adaptation planning and have made commitments to public engagement. I find that there are three primary ways cities engage the public in adaptation planning: 1) including the public in the planning and design process of broad adaptation strategies, 2) educating the public on climate risks, and 3) collaboratively problem-solving for a climate resilient future by addressing the long-term risks and tradeoffs of adaptation policies. I find that several cities are moving forward on either or both of the first two types of engagement, but cities are not making significant progress on the third. Furthermore, several cities are struggling to implement or have postponed implementing any type of engagement process on adaptation. Each city in the study has its own unique challenges to implementing engagement strategies, but through interviews with city staff, I identify common barriers to engagement in adaptation planning and offer recommendations for ways to overcome those barriers. I argue that cities should pursue public engagement that fosters public and political support for adaptation planning in order to build capacity for more inclusive and collaborative engagement practices that allow stakeholders to weigh both short-term and longterm trade-offs.
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