Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat is one of 45 U.S. mayors and county officials who have committed to creating more resilient communities in response to growing national extreme weather and energy challenges.
The Resilient Communities for America campaign, which launched this week, recognizes that local governments such as Fort Collins are on the front lines of responding to increasing disasters and disruptions fueled by a changing climate.
“Residents of Fort Collins have faced a series of weather-related issues with drought and wildfires in our backyard,” Weitkunat said. “The City aims to be a leader in helping the community increase its resiliency to the changing climate.”
Observations in recent decades show that Colorado is already experiencing shorter, warmer winters, thinner snow pack, longer periods of drought, more wildfires and other ecological effects potentially related to climate change.
“As a taxpayer-funded organization, the City has a responsibility to use tax dollars wisely, make informed investments and select appropriate options that enable us to be prepared and resilient in the face of climate change impacts,” said City Manager Darin Atteberry. “We are working to both reduce our impacts on changing climate through conservation programs (mitigation), and reducing the impacts of a changing climate on us (adaptation and preparedness).”
The Resilient Communities for America campaign seeks to champion the work of Weitkunat and other local elected officials and local governments at the forefront of the emerging national movement to build resilience - and to inspire hundreds more to follow their lead.
Fort Collins is already pursuing a range of cost-effective actions that address the triple bottom line of improved economic, environmental and social health for residents:
• In 1999, the City was among the first wave of communities to commit to reducing local greenhouse gas emissions. City Council adopted an updated greenhouse gas reduction goal and plan in 2008.
• Greenhouse gas emissions in the community have decreased since 2005, despite increases in population and sales and use tax. Energy Policy programs including the ClimateWise program are saving residents and businesses money while reducing emissions.
• The City is currently seeking community input on a Road to Zero Waste program focused on waste reduction and increased recycling.
• The City, along with Colorado State University and the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, is leading a community-driven initiative to create one of the world’s largest zero-energy districts with FortZED.
• The City has been considering the potential impacts from climate change since 2008 by assessing the risks and vulnerabilities to Utilities operations and capital assets. Additional planning efforts will continue in 2013 and beyond.
• Fort Collins is one of 11 cities participating in the Western Adaptation Alliance, a peer network of intermountain municipalities focusing on addressing climate challenges to the semi-arid and arid United States.
Other signatories to the Resilient Communities for America agreement include mayors of Washington, D.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; El Paso, Texas; Hoboken, N.J.; and Broward County, Fla.
The Campaign Agreement lays out three commitments for local elected officials:
• To urge state and federal leaders to support local resilience initiatives and to take meaningful steps to build resilience and security throughout the nation.
• To build community resilience through their own self-defined local actions and goals (emphasizing actions that address climate change, energy security, infrastructure renewal, and economic recovery).
• To share their solutions and success stories with other local governments to help accelerate their progress on resilience.
The Resilient Communities for America campaign is being coordinated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the World Wildlife Fund. For more information, go to http://www.resilience4america.org