The NYS 2100 Commission, formed following Hurricane Sandy to make recommendations to improve the strength and resiliency of New York State’s infrastructure, made its recommendations public today in the form of a 205 page report. Most significantly, the report concludes that natural defenses should play a key role in the State’s infrastructure moving forward. Mark Tercek, CEO and President of The Nature Conservancy, served as a Commissioner and contributed to this report.
"The Nature Conservancy is grateful to Governor Cuomo for the opportunity to serve on this important and visionary Commission,” said Tercek. “The 2100 Commission’s report highlights the important role natural defenses or 'green infrastructure' must play in reducing risk and losses from future storms. By comprehensively considering the full range of natural and man-made strategies for responding to the realities of a changing climate, New York can establish itself as a leader as the nation looks for cost-effective ways to help protect vulnerable and valuable infrastructure from natural disasters." Tercek continued.
As the NYS 2100 Commission is comprised of global influencers, the key notes about the use of land and the role of nature in the report signify a shift in attention towards using natural infrastructure, balanced with built, for a more resilient New York. More specifically, highlights of the report for The Nature Conservancy include:
1. The Commission expressly recognizes that climate change/sea level rise/ extreme weather is happening, that our infrastructure and communities are vulnerable in many different ways, and we need to immediately take steps to be prepared and resilient – the Commissioners agree that there is a ‘new normal’ and in all of our planning and policy-making we better face up to it now;
2. The report recognizes that ‘infrastructure’ includes not just man-made things like roads and bridges, but also natural systems, like the wetlands, dunes, floodplains, and forests that both protect our communities and provide many important co-benefits, and that therefore (i) just as we have to protect our vulnerable roads and bridges, we also have to protect our vulnerable wetlands, floodplains, dunes, and river systems; and (ii) just as we have to invest in our roads and bridges, we also have to invest in our natural systems and other ‘green’ infrastructure;
3. The report concludes that there is no ‘silver bullet’ but instead we will need to rely upon a smart mix of natural and engineered systems working in tandem, and both are equally important in addressing the problem. For a long time the natural solutions seemed like a footnote in infrastructure discussions – that should no longer be the case, and we will need to be creative, flexible, innovative and collaborative as we approach both the 'soft' and 'hard' solutions, but also how to pay for them.
Given the quick timeline, the Commission report provides a starting point for developing public policy, programs, and initiatives on a short, medium, and long term basis. It includes a framework for policy makers, advocacy groups, and community leaders who are willing to take action, it includes lots of recommendations that should stimulate thinking and change our approach to some of these issues, and most importantly, puts the ‘natural systems’ approach front and center, on equal footing with man-made solutions.
Over the past six weeks, a team of Conservancy staff worked to provide input, research, comments and draft text for the NYS 2100 Commission, drawing from the organization’s New York State resources, as well as national and international Conservancy leaders in freshwater, oceans and coasts, disaster mitigation and climate change.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.