Our Learnings from the 2022 Annual SE Regional Climate Leadership Summit (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

January 4, 2023

Our team at Forerunner recently joined representatives from Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties for the 14th Annual Southeast Regional Climate Leadership Summit in Fort Lauderdale. We were privileged to take part in ongoing conversations about how regional planning and collaboration play important roles in addressing sea level rise and climate change into the future. Here are a few of our takeaways from the event:

Alice Hill, a Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment the Council on Foreign Relations, gave the opening keynote address at the Summit. Hill discussed the work of the Southeast Florida Regional Compact in developing new technologies to address sea level rise. She also highlighted the increasing financial impact of natural disasters on communities across the country and the challenges of building resilience in a context where resilience funding can be difficult to mobilize. Hill specifically emphasized the importance of enforcing strong building codes as a critical lever in driving adaptation. This rang especially true in the wake of Hurricane Ian, where building codes across the state were challenged in the face of rebuilding efforts. She underscored the necessity of thinking holistically by combining stronger building codes with strategic land-use choices and resilient design. To learn more about the importance of building code regulations post-Ian, check out this blog post from the Forerunner team.

Connectors in Chief: Resilience Officers Look Ahead

Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) from the region shared their experiences collaborating with municipalities and highlighted some of their recent achievements. Jennifer Jurado, CRO for Broward County, discussed the Central South Florida Flood Control project. This project was a partnership between government, businesses, and the South Florida Water Management District. The partners worked together to secure language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out the Central South Florida Flood Control project. Without this authorization, the regional flood control study project would not be ableto move forward, even if funding was available. 

Rhonda Haag, CRO of Monroe County, discussed the use of state grants for vulnerability assessments in the Florida Keys in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers. These assessments are important because they allow local governments to assess future conditions, but without federal funding such as grants, they may not have the resources to do so. One challenge in assessing future conditions, particularly in the Keys, is determining how to allocate resources in the most effective way in the long term. For example, a study conducted for Monroe County found that it would cost $1.6 billion to elevate 150 miles of county roads. Coordination between the county and municipalities can help determine where these funds should be directed.

Connecting through Science: Building Stronger and Safer Communities

Many of the conference presenters emphasized the importance of using science to guide the efforts of governments and local community partners in building resilience. Mark Osler, a Senior Advisor for Coastal Inundation and Resilience at NOAA, noted in his talk that sea levels have risen at a faster rate in the last 30 years than in the previous 100 years. Osler also highlighted some positive news, stating that the most extreme projections for sea level rise can be addressed by more thoughtful decision-making around land-use, development, and flood mitigation. Federal and state governments can support local communities in preparing for resilience by learning how to leverage disaster funding and modify infrastructure for structural projects. For example, the Monroe County Land Authority is helping smaller communities by providing technical support for their flood mitigation projects. Rhonda Haag also raised the topic of leveraging data to determine whether or not it might be prudent to offer buyout incentives in areas where it may be necessary to stop rebuilding repetitively damaged structures.

As a team, we were heartened to find that many of the attendees saw technology and software like Forerunner as a potential bridge in driving better collaboration internally as well as between government agencies. If you'd like to hear more about our experience at the summit or if you'd like to learn more about our work with communities in Florida, feel free to reach out!

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