George Heartwell. Photo via grcity.us
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was in Washington, D.C. yesterday with other local, state and tribal leaders from across the country to talk about climate change with Vice President Joe Biden.
Heartwell — who was appointed to President Barack Obama’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience — met with Biden and senior White House officials to discuss the issues of carbon pollution and climate resilience and deliver their recommendations.
Although carbon-pollution reduction has often been the main focus of government intervention, communities across the U.S. have already felt the impact of the changing climate and are in need of government and infrastructure modernization to reduce that impact now and in the future.
Federal, state, and local governments need to work together to reduce the impact of extreme weather events, rising temperatures and other negative effects of climate change.
“Cities are at the frontlines of climate change and must deal with its consequences through effective actions,” Heartwell said. “Grand Rapids has faced the impacts of floods, heat waves and snow blizzards in the last three years. State and federal governments need to provide support to local governments and ensure coordinated efforts to address climate change effects.”
Task force members presented their recommendations on how the federal government can aid communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of extreme weather and the changing climate.
The task force recommendations were based on one year of soliciting input from citizens, governments, trade organizations, academic institutions, civilians and various other stakeholders.
The resulting information was incorporated into the final report and will be used to improve the climate preparedness and resiliency of U.S. communities. These recommendations provide guidance on how the federal government should modernize policies and programs to include climate change, promote and incentivize community resilience and offer pertinent and actionable information and tools.
The implementation of the task force report recognizes that although governments must continue to act on the carbon pollution, which drives climate change, they must also prepare communities for the impacts of climate change already being experienced.
“The continued adoption of renewable energy sources and implementation of energy-efficiency practices is extremely important to the long-term sustainability and climate resiliency of communities across the nation and the world," said Haris Alibasic, director of the Office of Energy & Sustainability, city of Grand Rapids.
The administration has already begun to make some changes, announcing new tools and actions yesterday to help leaders build more climate-resilient communities.
One of these tools is the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a web-based application that provides easy access to federal tools, which will assist city planners and decision makers in incorporating climate change in their visions for the future.