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St. Pete takes first steps to comprehensive plan to handle climate change, rising seas

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

About a year ago, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman signed an executive order establishing an office of sustainability.

Now, a group of experts from New Orleans, Miami, Boston and Tampa Bay have come together in partnership with St. Petersburg officials to set strategies that can be used in developing a comprehensive plan to answer the problems presented by climate change and rising seas.

The two-day conference, spearheaded by the Urban Land Institute of Tampa Bay, did not limit itself to the effect of storms, droughts and other emergencies on real property. Members of the group also considered the impact of climate emergencies on people and businesses. They also considered the disparate impact on some members of society who are older, poorer or who, for other reasons, are less able to cope with problems caused by the climate.

The real challenge, they said, is to raise climate change to an issue that’s in the front of peoples’ minds.

Among the strategies they recommend St. Pete consider in coming up with a plan:

Communicate with and educate residents about the need for such a plan. This should include people from all areas of the city.

Communicate with and educate businesses about the need for a plan and the wisdom of preparing to survive climate emergencies and to recover afterwards.

Think regionally and create partnerships with all stakeholders. This could include other governments, businesses, schools, homeowners’ associations, among other groups.

Demonstrate what’s possible with city projects: Consider, for example, including resiliency as a part of the redesign of Tropicana Field.

Be sure to budget for resiliency.

“There have been some really good takeaways,” St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice said.

She added that resiliency in the face of sea rise and climate change is “not just an esoteric greenie subject about how to build neat buildings.”

Rice said she was especially struck by the need to include resiliency as a part of the city budget. And, she said, the issue of resiliency for all St. Petersburg residents is extremely important.

“It’s hard to be resilient when you’re broke,” Rice said.

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