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Building Climate Resilience through Regional Planning and Local Action

Jennifer Jurado shares her involvement with her community in Broward County, Florida.

Jennifer JuradoJennifer Jurado is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts as a Community Resilience Leader.

I have been working with Broward County government since I completed my graduate studies in 2002. I received my doctorate degree in Marine Biology and Fisheries from the University of Miami where I studied Phytoplankton Ecology.  I thoroughly enjoyed my graduate experience and my work in the coastal environment and expected that my longer-term career would follow this same track. While I didn't remain in academia, these studies paved the path for a career that has focused on the protection of our natural resources and addressing the challenges of climate change.  I am honored to be recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for my role in advancing climate resilience activities in Broward County and South Florida, and am privileged to work for a leadership that appreciates the great importance of working to build climate resilience at local and regional scales as fundamental to the long-term sustainability of our community, environment, and economy.

I originally joined Broward County as the County's water resources manager, responsible for county-wide coordination of water resource management, policy and planning, which included staffing of the County's Water Advisory Board. Climate change and sea level rise were increasing being recognized to pose extreme challenges to our long-term ability to maintain flood protection and water supplies in a region that relies upon an extensive system of canals and pumps for flood control and a surficial coastal aquifer already being impacted by saltwater intrusion.  In a low-lying coastal community that is largely shaped by water, much of our early focus on climate change was driven by water resources implications. This would ultimately include responsibility for convening the County's Climate Change Task Force, overseeing development of the County's Climate Change Action Plan, and working regionally on climate mitigation and adaptation issues. 

The Compact is a commitment among Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties to work collaboratively to address shared mitigation and adaptation challenges through joint policy advocacy, the development of uniform planning tools, the creation of a Regional Climate Action Plan, and the annual hosting of Climate Leadership Summits. Some accomplishments from Compact included the development of a unified sea level rise projection, the creation of a regional greenhouse gas emissions baseline, and sea level rise vulnerability mapping using a common methodology.  During the 2011 legislative process, we were able to advance a legislative amendment to the State's Growth Management Act which allows for the designation of "Adaptation Action Areas" by local government. Action Area designation allows us to identify areas vulnerable to coastal flooding and sea level rise.  In October 2012, we completed a Regional Climate Action Plan (RCAP) that includes 110 recommendations in the areas of community resilience across 7 focal areas. 

Today, our comprehensive plan now includes the sea level rise projection developed by the Compact (9 to 24 inches by 2060), reference to Adaptation Action Areas, and a new land use map which identifies priority planning areas within the County based on likely inundation with a 2-foot sea level rise. We are integrating climate change influences and sea level rise in our regional hydrologic modeling efforts that will guide adaptation strategies as part of our water management and water supply planning decisions and investments. We are also in the midst of advancing a regional energy efficiency finance program that will support our efforts to reduce community-wide emissions and advance economic development in this sector. 

As I reflect back on the last several years, I am impressed by the advancements that have been made while also recognizing the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead.  So often, daily progress is obscured by the weight of unmet tasks, but as with many efforts, when you take the time to look back it is only then that you can appreciate the full measure of progress that has been made.  This reflection also brings to light the contributions and individual efforts of the many talented and dedicated community members and staff whose efforts make initiatives of this scale possible. Regional coordination has been key to local progress, but continued success will require municipal partnerships, community engagement, and collaborations across all levels of governments. While we have made remarkable progress in southeast Florida and Broward County, we are only just getting started.

Dr. Jennifer Jurado is the Director of the Natural Resources Planning and Management Division in Broward County, Florida