Good to Great: Developing a Public Private Partnership on Climate Change Resiliency

Yesterday, NAIOP was proud to participate in a Climate Change Resiliency Forum at the State House. NAIOP’s CEO, David Begelfer, joined legislators, climatologists, environmental advocates, a representative from the insurance industry and EEA Secretary Matthew Beaton to discuss this important economic development issue. NAIOP advocated for a public private partnership and echoed the comments we presented to the Baker Administration in the Good to Great report. The following is our weekly excerpt from that report. Comments are encouraged!

Climate change can have significant impacts affecting the overall economy; directly, by damaging structures, and indirectly, by compromising transportation systems, communications, and utilities. An increasing number of extreme weather events and future sea level rise may lead to more frequent and extensive flooding along the coast and inland waterways.

The varying interpretations and projected economic and environmental impacts from climate change and sea level rise demand that the private and public sectors coordinate their common objectives. Unfortunately, to date, there has been a serious lack of coordination or collaboration on this issue. Individual cities and towns are taking their own steps to regulate and respond to climate change and sea level rise. Within MassDEP alone, multiple climate change policies and regulations are being drafted using different climate change projections. All of these regulatory and policy initiatives are focusing on how private development projects should address this issue, and very few have addressed the public sector’s role. For example, capital expenditures will be necessary for equipping existing public infrastructure to meet storm surges. Clearly, having a “climate change proof” building in the middle of a flooded neighborhood, without power or adequate transportation, provides no real public or private benefit.

There is no question this issue will be a significant challenge for the Baker Polito Administration. Addressing climate change and sea level rise requires coordination at the highest level of state government, and the participation of many state agencies. Therefore, NAIOP urges the Administration to consider the following steps to better coordinate how this issue is addressed in order to avoid the calamities that have been suffered by other coastal states:

Create a high level point of contact (Climate Change Chief) for local, state, and federal agencies, as well as the private sector. This position should be located in the Governor’s office or within the Executive Office of Administration & Finance. Given the need for coordination across many facets of state government, and the impact of this issue on the state’s resources, it should not be located in EOEEA. Planning for responses to rising sea levels is an operational and infrastructure challenge, not an environmental policy issue. To ensure consistency across the Administration, the Climate Change Chief should have input on all policies or regulations dealing with climate change. All agency findings and regulations regarding the extent of sea level rise or climate change must not be cost prohibitive to the private sector and should include public funding and participation.

Working closely with the Governor’s office, the Climate Change Chief would pursue the following action items:

  • Establish a structure/partnership with academic and research institutions to identify, develop, test, and incorporate reliable climate change and sea level rise forecasts and climate change preparedness programs.
  • Conduct an inventory of state agency regulations adopted or now under review/proposed dealing with how existing and new public and private development should respond to climate change and sea level rise.
  • Undertake an inventory of state and regional authorities, their threatened assets, and their infrastructure preparedness needs, and identify state monies committed to study climate change and sea level rise. Identify capital funds that should be dedicated to infrastructure upgrades for vital state and regional properties, with a priority toward vulnerable infrastructure.
  • Coordinate the agenda of the state agencies responsible for establishing a target range for sea level rise, determining its effect upon existing infrastructure and future development and developing guidelines for climate preparedness and mitigation planning and review (e.g., MEPA, MassDOT, MBTA, BBRS, MWRA, MassDEP, DPU, Mass Housing, MEMA and CZM).
  • Identify state agency personnel responsible for the review of policies, procedures, and regulations regarding climate change and sea level rise.
  • Ensure that cost-benefit analysis guides policy making. Policymakers should look at programs in terms of maximizing preparedness and resiliency benefits while minimizing burdens on fiscal and other resources.
  • Encourage consistent local efforts to address climate change preparedness including identifying susceptible infrastructure (e.g., mass transit, highways, stormwater systems, energy, fuel, communications, etc.), adopting reliable climate change projections, and establishing guidelines and regulations to incorporate climate change into future planning decisions and outreach programs.

We urge the Governor to coordinate this critical effort to ensure focus and consistency on this economic development issue.

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