WNYEA 2015 Congress

Published on November 25th, 2015 | by Bradley Cantor

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Innovation Spotlight: One Region Forward

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Written by Shannon Trubatch

Western New York has begun to write a new story for itself – one that inspires people to work together for a more sustainable future that addresses the climate crisis at hand. Many of our region’s citizens, in a variety of organizations, companies, advocacy groups and more, have been working towards this goal for some time now.

One Region Forward, a collaborative effort of over 700 local organizations and over 5000 citizens promoting sustainable development in our region, seeks to bring together these efforts into focus to allow for better, faster progress on all of the work that needs to be accomplished in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the Buffalo Niagara region.

A key part of this process, says Bart Roberts, a Research Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, is coordinating Federal, State and local investments that address the needs of our region to combat climate change, including a $2 million grant through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an interagency collaboration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Historically, except for significant lake-effect snowfall, Western New York has not experienced any major natural disasters. However, this does not exempt us from the hazards and risks of climate change. An important aspect of One Region Forward’s plan is the response to existing and anticipated impacts of climatic change already underway across the Buffalo-Niagara region.

ORFPic1Ultimately, 1RF’s plan brings together years of research and community engagement to create a decision making tool. It highlights how our developments in the past have not accounted for future impacts, such as how the population of our region has decreased by 16%, yet the amount of land we take up has increased by 78%, as well as the trajectory for our communities if we were to continue on with “business-as-usual.”

Most importantly, the plan provides solutions for future development that takes into account the anticipated impacts of climate change on our communities and seeks to mitigate our carbon emissions, and provides quantitative measurements for analyzing our progress.

A majority of the proposed climate change response strategies are rooted in ongoing local planning initiatives such as land use planning, transportation planning, building codes, and hazard mitigation. It incorporates the idea of building upon infrastructure we already have rather than starting from scratch, and seeks to build and protect walkable communities with diversified transportation options, both of which lend to decreasing carbon emissions.

Another key proponent to One Region Forward’s plan is education. Whether individuals are interested in learning the basics of sustainable development and planning, or are looking to implement an idea you have for their community, 1RF’s Citizen Planning School provides the tools to engage in local communities and be a driving force for change.ORFPic2

In addition to the Citizen Planning School, groups and organizations can request presentations by One Region Forward, in order to become more informed citizens and lead the charge in addressing the needs of our region, to recognize the effects of climate change, and act accordingly.

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