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Sustainable Development Solutions Network Report Highlights HCRI Climate Resilience Planning

The SDSN recently published the  Zero Carbon Action Plan. This plan will serve as roadmap for the U.S. based on the latest modeling, research and understanding of decarbonizing six key sectors (power, transport, industry, buildings, food and land use, and materials) supported by technical pathways to zero carbon by 2050, as well as supporting policy recommendations.

HCRI Member Kathryn McConnell highlights HCRI’s climate planning efforts in the Treasure Valley on Pg. 136-137.

Excerpt on HCRI taken from report:

“Case Study – Climate Resilience Planning in the Treasure Valley, Idaho
The Treasure Valley of Idaho is a rapidly growing metropolitan region of around 750,000 people encompassing rural agricultural communities, exurban towns, several small cities, and the state capitol, Boise. Situated within a high desert ecosystem in the Intermountain West, the Treasure Valley faces a range of growing climate impacts, such as droughts, chronic wildfire smoke, and heat waves. While the region is composed of numerous distinct municipalities, their capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change are interlinked through transportation and economic networks, shared environmental resources such as watersheds and public lands, and mutual exposure to trans boundary climate impacts. Coordinating collective climate action across this varied landscape of communities – whose population size, economic bases, and politics vary widely – is a central challenge for this region.

The Hazard and Climate Resilience Institute (HCRI) at Boise State University, one of the region’s anchor institutions, is bringing together stakeholders from across the Treasure Valley to build climate resilience.⁴⁷ Starting in 2017, the group began building relationships across the Treasure Valley, and is convening a multi-year, collective process to develop a “Resilient Treasure Valley” plan. This plan will emphasize the communities’ capacity to respond to a broad range of hazards and disasters, including both climate change impacts as well as non-climate hazards such as earthquakes.

HCRI’s framing of “resilience planning” – instead of “climate planning” – speaks to local notions of self-reliance in one of the most geographically isolated metropolitan regions in the country. This planning process is unique in that it is being facilitated by a local, well regarded public university, rather than directly by governments themselves. Leveraging their status as both facilitator and research institution, HCRI is convening a wide range of stakeholders, including both government officials and academic researchers. By doing so, HCRI is opening up avenues for collaborative, applied research that will also serve to evaluate the effectiveness of new resilience-focused policies as they are adopted.

Several municipalities within the Treasure Valley have also begun to adopt their own climate strategies, with Boise most actively driving new policy.⁴⁸ The city recently established a Climate Action Division, which is tasked with advancing climate resilience efforts. In tandem with this Division, recent initiatives brought forward under the city’s new mayor emphasize equity as a central tenet of climate action. For example, existing energy and water efficiency programs will be redirected towards low-income earners in an attempt to integrate climate mitigation and affordability goals. Additionally, funding has been allocated for a citywide environmental justice assessment, which will map the distribution of environmental harms and climate impacts (e.g., wildfire risk, and heatwave hotspots), as well as environmental amenities and climate adaptation resources (e.g., tree canopy cover, and parks). By pairing these spatial evaluations with demographic data, Boise will be able to strategically focus climate mitigation and adaptation efforts towards more vulnerable and traditionally underserved communities.

The Federal Government can provide resources to support a transition from single occupant vehicles to transit and shared/pooled services in ways that enhance accessibility by disadvantaged travelers. In addition to funding Federal Government building retrofits, the Federal Government should provide financial resources via grants to states, counties, and cities, for extensive building retrofits. Some combination of federal and state financial incentives may still be necessary to ease the fuel-switching cost for the consumer. Carbon pricing could also help by increasing the cost of natural gas or other fossil fuels compared to renewable electricity.

A key barrier to implementing programs to increase soil carbon at large scale is the need for credible and reliable monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) platforms. There is a need for more investment in GHG inventories and other measuring and monitoring programs, such as remote sensing,vi to track progress toward net carbon goals. For natural and working lands, enhanced techniques for measuring, monitoring, and modeling soil and forest carbon can be developed through partnerships between states and universities.

vi. Remote sensing is the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by
measuring its reflected and emitted radiation at a distance (typically from satellite or aircraft).

SDSN 2020. Zero Carbon Action Plan. New York: Sustainable
Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Pg. 137-136.