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Conference Highlights

2009 ACR-Environment & Public Policy Conference

Pre-Conference Workshop

Before the conference, a workshop called "Mentor Orientation Workshop on Developing EPP Practitioners through Learning Relationships" provided insights on what it means to be a mentor. The speakers for the workshop, Carolyna Smiley-Marquez and Laurie Hunt discussed how to establish boundaries, establish expectations and develop awareness of cultural and stylistic differences. The attendees of the capacity conference found the workshop inspiring. 

Opening Plenary

The panel that opened the 2009 ACR-EPP Conference focused on state-based collaborative approaches to climate change and included Tom Peterson, President and CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies, Stephen Saunders, President of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and John "Jack" Pommer, Colorado State Representative, District 11. Peterson opened the plenary by stressing how public consensus on issues such as climate change is essential in developing sound policy. He described how some of the better national laws had their origin in state and local law due to the collaborative nature of their policy building process.

The RMCO, with representatives from business to energy utilities to environmental groups, represents just how such local movements can foster collaboration regarding climate change in the interior western states. Saunders believes we should be optimistic about our potential to create solutions to climate change because there are many groups like RMCO working on the issue. Representative Pommer described how restructuring existing policy frameworks is a difficult task that legislators face on climate change. Current policies cannot meet the unprecedented nature of the climate change problem, but Pommer believes that this restructuring can occur more effectively with collaborative processes.

Post Conference Field Trips

Two post conference field trips allowed participants to observe collaborative governance on climate change in action in Colorado. The first trip was to the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Mesa Lab (NCAR) in Boulder, which performs research regarding the earth's climate and predicting future changes. Dinner at the Dushanbe Tajik Tea House followed.

The following day, several conference attendees went to Rocky Mountain National Park to get a first-hand look at the effects of climate change on various
ecosystems within the park with Park Ranger Judy Visty. Most notably, they saw how the pine beetle has killed large tracts of lush pine forest. The pine beetle spread throughout Colorado is, in part, due to milder winters which has allowed
the population of the beetle to grow rapidly. Colorado State University Professor Jessica Thompson led the tour and explained how collaborative processes have led to strategies for responding to the challenges that the
National Parks face because of climate change.

Conference Conclusions compiled from various sessions


One of the biggest challenges facing collaborative efforts in addressing the crisis of climate change is making those efforts work in real time. Collaborative governance needs to analyze the problem quickly and produce sound solutions that can be implemented promptly. Another issue facing collaborative governance is providing viable examples (such as case studies or models)
to those committed to the process to increase efficacy within collaborative efforts.


While collaboration is relatively new to tackling the climate change issue as a whole, there are specific examples of cooperative organizations around environmental issues that are applicable to how climate change can be approached through new forms of governance. Examples include Pennsylvania Environmental Council which developed a climate change roadmap for the
state, and the Virginia Food Systems Council which focuses on the ecological advantages of local foods.

Next Steps, Opportunities and Obligations

Channels of communication, across different disciplines and phases (such as research, development, action and results) in climate change projects, should be more open. Collaborative processes need more visibility to promote their effectiveness in solving the climate change problem.

Thank You to our Sponsors for making this event possible: U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, Morris K. Udall Foundation, Meridian Institute, Consensus Building Initiative, RESOLVE and the Henry R. Luce Foundation.

-- Autumn Gorman & Jon Howard