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Philip Barnes and Kohei Akiba interviewed local officials throughout Delaware to understand how they acquire and use climate change information in their administrative roles and the barriers to more climate-informed decision-making at the municipal level. The findings have been published in a new report, Delaware Climate Change Programming: Evaluating Its Effectiveness and Impact on Local Resiliency.
A new study from the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) reveals that local officials and administrators in Delaware possess a high level of awareness of climate change impacts, but that knowledge is not commonly factored into local government decisions, such as land use and development.
With funding from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)'s Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy, Delaware Coastal Programs Section, Philip Barnes, policy scientist with IPA, and Kohei Akiba (BA '20), undergraduate public administration fellow, interviewed local officials throughout Delaware to understand how they acquire and use climate change information in their administrative roles and the barriers to more climate-informed decision-making at the municipal level.
The results were presented in a new report, Delaware Climate Change Programming: Evaluating Its Effectiveness and Impact on Local Resiliency, published this August. The analysis showed that local officials are knowledgeable about the impacts that climate change is having and will continue to have on their communities. Many interviewees noted that first-hand observation of climate impacts (witnessing more frequent and intense flooding) was a powerful way to gain awareness. Education and training programs offered by the statemostly by DNRECand its partners also communicate climate change information to local officials.
Yet despite this knowledge, and despite several instances of municipal climate planning, implementing climate adaptation measures is slow to occur for a variety of reasons including deficits in a local technical capacity, uncertainty around administrative and policy strategies for implementing resilient development practices, and high demand for municipal staff resources that must manage a heavy load of short term day-to-day activities and permitting processes.
To advance climate-informed development and local administration, the study recommends creating a program to plug the local capacity gap by pairing state-sponsored technical resources with willing communities. This state-community partnership would work through a publicly-engaged process that seeks to transition the municipality from the climate planning phase into implementation.
While climate planning and vulnerability assessments are valuable, the interviews suggest a specific focus is needed to actually move the needle on implementation (codes, ordinances, policies, etc.), said Barnes. The results of the study will help inform numerous programs and agencies that provide outreach, education, and training on coastal resilience to the communities of Delaware.
The project team also expressed gratitude for the contributions of municipal leaders. The project would not have been possible without the many local officials who took the time to be interviewed for this research," said Barnes.
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