Plug Pulled on the 100 Resilient Cities Program

The largest privately funded climate-adaptation program in the United States, 100 Resilient Cities, will conclude in July.

2 minute read

April 2, 2019, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Staten Island Sandy Damage

Damages on Staten Island after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. | Andrei Orlov / Shutterstock

Late last week, reports that the Rockefeller Foundation would end its groundbreaking climate resilience program, 100 Resilient Cities, caught the climate change advocacy community by surprise.

Christopher Flavelle wrote on March 28 to break the news of the program's impending doom, also explaining how the 100 Resilient Cities program works and where in the United States funding had been allocated "to hire 'chief resilience officers'" and grant "access to the organization’s staff and external consultants, as well as to a global network of cities trying to grapple with similar problems."

Twenty-four large and medium U.S. cities use the program, among them some of those most exposed to hurricanes and rising seas, including New Orleans, Houston, Seattle and Norfolk, Virginia. But the initiative also drew in cities far from the coast, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma; Louisville, Kentucky; Pittsburgh and St. Louis -- places contending with other types of extreme weather, like flooding and heat waves.

The initiative’s approach is to define resilience broadly, in a way that incorporates the social and economic challenges likely to amplify the physical shocks of natural disasters. That approach matches the overlapping risks associated with climate change.

Analysis by the Urban Institute, completed in 2018, found the program to be mostly effective.

In the process of breaking the news, Flavelle also speculated that the program's demise might be connected to leadership change at the Foundation. 

Flavelle also published a follow up article confirming the news on April 1, 2019, adding additional details about the future of the Rockfeller Foundation's climate change work.

Rockefeller will shift some of its resilience funding to the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, with a $30 million grant to the council’s Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience, the foundation said in a press release. Rockefeller also announced a $12 million grant “to allow continued support and transition time to the 100 Resilient Cities network through much of 2019.”

A Rockefeller Foundation spokesperson, Matt Herrick, is quoted in the article saying the 100 Resilient Cities program ended because it had achieved most of its goals.

A separate article by Eillie Anzilotti expands on the implications of the decision, describing the end of the program as a "blow" to the evolving field of sustainability and resilience.

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