By Tess Mackey, Virginia Sea Grant Embedded Correspondent
“I’m so excited to see you doing this today at William & Mary through the auspices of the law school,” said U.S. Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine. “So many folks gathered to tackle the particular challenges we face in Virginia and how to deal with sea level rise and climate the right way, not the wrong way.”
Kaine provided the keynote address at the second annual conference on “Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change in Virginia: Next Steps for the Commonwealth” hosted by the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic on December 5. The conference brought together policymakers, scientists, business owners, members of nonprofits, and students to discuss progress and future efforts that Virginia’s coasts will need to adapt to long-term change in sea levels. The conference included a meeting of the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission and panel discussions on flood insurance, businesses, and social vulnerability.
During his keynote, Kaine noted that sea level rise is more than hypothetical projections for flat coastal areas like Hampton Roads, which are already experiencing the effects of incremental sea level rise. Big storms like hurricanes and Nor’easters are inevitable for our area, and proactive emergency preparedness and relief planning are key for developing resiliency in Virginia’s coastal communities.
The conference opened with a report on climate change progress in Virginia to the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission. All the panelists focused on the benefits of bringing together a variety of stakeholders to leverage assets and meaningfully address sea level rise. Dr. Carl Hershner, the Director of the Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM) at VIMS, presented an analysis of actions taken since the 2008 Kaine Commission on Climate Change and made recommendations for future work. Virginia has made progress towards energy efficiency and growth of some renewable energy sources and improved data collection on adaptation. Moving forward, the CCRM and VIMS advocated that the state respond to the 2008 Climate Action Plan with a comprehensive implementation program.
Said Jim Redick, co-chair of the Secure Commonwealth Panel’s Recurrent Flooding Subpanel, “We were able to get a lot of folks to the table, at no cost, to come up with some fantastic recommendations, and for that I think we should celebrate our successes, but also know that there’s a lot more that we need to do.”
Redick emphasized that localities are all doing great work, but coastal Virginia needs to have a unity of effort to ensure that they are all working towards the same outcome with no gaps or repetition. In response to calls for a more centralized planning and response system, the Governor’s Commission announced Governor McAuliffe’s appointment of Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran as the Commonwealth’s new Chief Resiliency Officer to coordinate adaptation efforts in the state among a variety of organizations. Secretary Moran will serve as Virginia’s first-ever Chief Resiliency Officer.
Other panels discussed changes to and incentives in the National Flood Insurance Program, the potential for local government liability in adapting to climate change, social vulnerability, and opportunities for the private sector to reduce costs associated with recurrent flooding through market-driven responses and new insurance policies.
The third edition of the “Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change in Virginia” conference will be held on November 13, 2015.
Virginia Sea Grant is a proud supporter of William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic.