The Rockefeller Foundation is about to disband its "100 Resilient Cities" climate-adaptation initiative, according to Bloomberg. The initiative was the largest privately funded climate adaptation program in the United States.
Started in 2013, the program was meant to help cities like Boston, Miami and New York prepare for "threats related to climate change." Rockefeller plans to close the organization's offices and dismiss its staff of about 100 as soon as this summer. The move coincides with a pullback in climate change work by the Trump administration, which has worked to reverse some policies designed to spend resources on preparing for global warming.
Rockefeller initially provided $164 million in grant money for the program, which paid for cities to hire a "Chief Resilience Officer" in charge of developing and implementing strategies for coping with climate change. The initiative also gave cities access to the organization's staff and consultants when trying to help solve problems related to climate change.
24 cities use the program, including Houston, Seattle, New Orleans, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Among the cities, natural disasters like hurricanes, rising seas, flooding and heat waves are all common. The approach for the initiative was to "define resilience broadly" and also incorporate social and economic challenges that would amplify the physical shocks of natural disasters.
A report released last year prepared by 13 federal agencies stated: “Situations where multiple climate stressors simultaneously affect multiple city sectors, either directly or through system connections, are expected to become more common. When climate stressors affect one sector, cascading effects on other sectors increase risks to residents’ health and well being.”
Rockefeller commissioned a performance review last year which found that the initiative was working. The report showed that at least half of the participating cities were starting to "institutionalize resilience" into their planning and operations.
And yet just one year later, the program is ending.
The demise of the program could also be a result of leadership changes at the foundation. It was created by Judith Rodin, who was president of Rockefeller until 2017 and former president of the University of Pennsylvania. She was succeeded by Raj Shah, who had formerly run the US Agency for International Development. Last Thursday, Michael Berkowitz, the head of 100 Resilient Cities, told employees that the group's future was "suddenly uncertain". The organization is still expecting to attend a summer planned for Rotterdam in July, but perhaps not much after that.
The Urban Institute noted: "100RC is an innovation in multiple regards, not the least of which are its scale of interventions and depth of engagement. Alternatives to the Rockefeller Foundation’s charge do not exist."