The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact was signed by Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties in 2009 to coordinate mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines. The Compact represents a new form of regional climate governance designed to allow local governments to set the agenda for adaptation while providing an efficient means for state and federal agencies to engage with technical assistance and support.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, the first of its kind in the region, was held on October 23, 2009 in Broward County. Representatives from Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties were in attendance along with federal and state policy makers, planners, and developers, among others. Speakers addressed topics ranging from security issues to economic impacts and discussed mitigation and adaptation strategies. At the conclusion of the day-long summit, four county representatives – Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, and Monroe County Mayor George Neugent – signed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact acknowledges the vulnerability of the region’s shorelines to sea level rise and other climate change impacts where the four counties share coastal boundaries and resources (e.g., Everglades, coral reefs). The compact also recognizes the importance of a collaborative approach to climate action to diminish these risks.
The compact calls for the counties to work cooperatively in order to:
- develop a climate response strategy for the region;
- encourage federal funding to support regional action;
- develop a coordinated response to proposed state climate legislation and policies; and
- dedicate staff time and resources to create a Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Action Plan to include mitigation and adaptation strategies.
The four counties of Southeast Florida are home to 5.5 million people and account for over one third of Florida’s total economy. Following its announcement in October 2009, the Compact was ratified in January 2010 via ordinance by each county commission.
During 2010, the project focused on developing the governance process to enable the four counties and the South Florida Water Management District to effectively work together to meet compact objectives. The Compact Staff Steering Committee composed of two representatives from each county and one representative of the District has coalesced as an effective decision-making body. The counties assigned senior personnel to the committee including county managers, deputy managers, sustainability directors, and environmental department directors. Over the course of the process, Steve Adams (initially with the Climate Leadership Initiative at The Resource Innovation Group, but now with the Institute for Sustainable Communities) has facilitated meetings of the Compact Steering Committee and working groups established to complete specific tasks.
Since early 2010, the Regional Compact has accomplished the following:
- A policy coordination work group that included intergovernmental staff from each county to reach consensus on energy and climate change policy positions for the state legislature and the Congress. For the 2011 and 2012 county policy development process, the Policy Group provided unified state and federal policy positions that were subsequently adopted by each of the four county commissions on substantive legislation and appropriations. Beginning in 2011, the commissions have instructed their state and federal lobby teams to work together on these issues.
- As a precursor to the Regional Climate Action Plan, the Compact Staff Steering Committee organized a regional greenhouse gas emissions inventory team to collect data to support the completion of a regional emissions inventory. The regional inventory leveraged three existing county-level inventories previously completed while assisting the fourth county in developing a data collection process that did not previously exist. The primary technical challenge faced in developing the regional inventory was in establishing a baseline year given the decrease in regional emissions driven by an economic recession that began locally in late 2007. This was accomplished by developing a weighted average of emissions of five years of data covering 2005 through 2009, which enabled Compact participants to better understand the relationship between robust economic growth (in 2005 and 2006) and recessionary local economies (in 2007 and 2008) and one enjoying a modest recovery (2009).
- As two of the four counties had previously completed county-level climate adaptation plans prior to the initiation of the Compact, the fact that each used differing rates of sea level rise through 2100 created challenges in communicating local needs to state and federal legislators and to the broader public. The fact that these were neighboring counties further complicated those communications. The Compact Staff Steering Committee identified the creation of a unified sea level rise projection for use in Compact planning and communications as a high priority task much needed prior to the development of a Regional Climate Action Plan. The Staff Steering Committee convened a technical advisory group of local scientists from academia and federal, state and local agencies to assess the latest literature on sea level rise and provide a final recommendation for use in the planning process. After several meetings, the group provided the Staff Steering Committee with a recommended range of between three to seven inches by 2030 (from a 2010 baseline) and nine to 24 inches by 2060. The group demurred on providing a projection for 2100 given the amount of academic activity currently underway to meet the end of 2012 publication deadline for including in the IPCC’s 5thAssessment Report due in 2014. The Staff Steering Committee accepted these recommendations for use in the regional planning process and further requested that the technical advisory group reconvene in early 2013 to provide adjustments to these recommendations for 2030 and 2060 as well as provide a projection through 2100.
- To understand regional vulnerabilities to projected climate impacts, the Compact participants recognized the need for a consistent process of assessing natural and built assets of regional importance across the four counties. To accomplish this task, the Compact Staff Steering Committee initiated a regional vulnerability assessment working group. Using recently flown LIDAR data provided by the Florida Division of Emergency Management with significant post-processing by the South Florida Water Management District, the counties were able to first develop a protocol for determining sea level rise impact and inundation assessment for 18 classes of natural and built infrastructure across the four counties including such assets as natural areas, roads and bridges, schools, hospitals, hurricane evacuation routes, police and fire stations and water supply facilities. NOAA’s Coastal Services Center and the US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District provided significant technical assistance in providing a regionally consistent water surface (based on interpolated tidal gauge data) and inundation coverages for one, two and three feet inundation scenarios. The counties were able to assess inundation at the parcel level with a consistent means of demonstrated uncertainty created by the vertical datum derived from the FDEM LIDAR data set. With the completion of the Regional Vulnerability Assessment in 2011, the Regional Action Plan working groups were ready to begin their task.
- With the assessment and analysis phases complete, the Compact Staff Steering Committee organized three working groups to the develop specific recommendations for reducing emissions and building climate resilience across the four county region for Built Environment, Transportation and Land & Natural Systems. Each of the three working groups were chaired or co-chaired by a member of the Staff Steering Committee. After formation early in 2011, the three action plan working groups provided initial draft recommendations to the Staff Steering Committee in a two-day retreat held in Key Largo in July 2011. After review and comment, the Staff Steering Committee provided guidance to the three working groups in finalizing the strategies to be included in the Regional Climate Action Plan and convened a “super committee” to address three cross-cutting issues that emerged separately from the three working groups. The Draft Regional Climate Action plan is scheduled for release for public comment in late 2011.
Some of the early lessons learned from the Southeast Florida case to date include:
- The regional scale of the Compact has enabled participants to develop resilience strategies that effectively integrate human and natural systems. The Regional Action Plan has effectively connected resilience efforts within the urban core of Southeast Florida with broader ecosystem scale efforts including comprehensive Everglades restoration, protection of the Southeast Florida coral reef track, and regionally important threatened and endangered species and habitats. The ecosystem services provided to the human settlements of the region are evident in the nature of projected vulnerabilities such as salt water intrusion into local drinking water supplies and the increased exposure to storm surge impacts associated with the loss of natural barriers. The strategies developed to enhance environmental and habitat quality fully recognize the benefits these strategies will have for the ongoing livability of the region.
- The Compact has provided a national model for state and federal agency engagement with local government around the specific issues of place. As the Compact is led by local government and further, as the Compact represents a significant aggregation of effort by four counties and containing over 100 municipalities, it has become a highly efficient mechanism for state and federal agency engagement in the local process. Since its initial creation in 2009, the Compact has received extensive technical support from NOAA, USGS, the Army Corps of Engineers, EPA Region IV as well as the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Community Affairs and the South Florida Water Management District.
- Since adoption, the Compact has won recognition through awards from ICLEI and the National Association of Counties, a requested white paper from the White House Domestic Policy Council, a request to host a listening session for the White House-Interagency Adaptation Task Force, and specific references within the Task Force’s Final Report to the President. Subsequent federal agency engagement in the Compact has been highlighted in CEQ progress reports to the President.
- The Compact has become an effective means of changing local and state policy. During the 2011 state legislative session, the Compact Counties successfully lobbied for a provision in Florida’s growth management laws that would enable local government to designate areas as “Adaptation Action Areas” as a means to prioritize investments for building resilience and guide future development in a more thoughtful way to reduce risks in vulnerable areas. The annual policy coordination process has been twice completed since initiation and is providing a model for county cooperation on other policy issues of regional importance.
Adams, S. & Gregg, R. M. (2010). Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact [Case study on a project of the Institute for Sustainable Communities]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/southeast-florida-regional-climate-change-co… (Last updated November 2011)