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Engaging with the public and supporting community-driven solutions

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Climate change affects all parts of the county and all residents, businesses, and organizations. Recognizing that transformative climate policies must be driven and supported by the public, the county is engaging residents and listening to how climate change is impacting them to collectively build support for solutions.

Increasing the understanding of the local impacts of climate change

A challenge we face in Hennepin County is that the dramatic images seen in the news of hurricanes, persistent droughts, wildfires, and urban heat waves don’t match up with how we are currently experiencing climate change, so it can be harder for our residents to understand our local impacts.

Thus far, impacts in Hennepin County have mostly been limited to small geographic areas, such as an intense rainfall inundating a portion of a city, creeping groundwater flooding affecting a small zone of residents, or landslides happening in specific areas.

Additionally, the effects of extreme heat and extreme cold disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, leaving the general public with an underappreciation of these climate change impacts.

The county needs support and engagement from residents, businesses, and organizations to advance collective action and drive systemic change.

Conducting climate education

There needs to be an increased understanding that a functioning, stable climate serves as the foundation of our lives. Our health and safety, water supplies, food systems, access to healthy air, and where we are able to live all depend on a stable climate.

The county will continue to engage a broad range of stakeholders in understanding the impacts and work with residents and communities to articulate our collective vision for a climate-friendly future.

The county will work to understand our residents’ attitudes, barriers, and motivation toward taking action to address climate change and identify what different audiences need to take action.

Based on these learnings, we will then develop effective programs, messages, and outreach efforts to support collective action. Climate education will be improved by partnering with community groups and schools to ensure messages and messengers are relevant.

Supporting community-driven solutions

Through the development of the plan, community-based organizations, youth groups and environmental advocacy groups expressed strong interest in collaboration and commitment to working with the county to ensure our plan is effective and impactful.

Our community envisions long-term partnerships to increase engagement and support community-driven solutions. This will include fostering long-term community engagement that takes a social and environmental justice lens and gives community partners and youth a voice in development and implementation.

The county has a role in supporting community-led initiatives and empowering local leadership to ensure solutions are relevant and effective.

Increasing transparency and ensure accountability

The county will facilitate community involvement in measuring progress toward meeting the established goals. Community members want future engagement efforts to include regular assessment and mutual accountability with partners and the public to ensure the county is on track to meet its goals.

Hennepin County Commissioners have discussed the role of the newly created Climate and Resiliency Director to track performance metrics with the expectation of transparency and accountability with the public, with the first report back to board to occur about a year into the plan.

Other actions

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Working with public entity partners for greater impact

Public entity partners, including cities, watershed organizations, park districts, and other regional and state units of government, are very interested in pursuing mutually beneficial climate goals and encouraged the county to serve in a role of convener.

Person sweeping water out of flooded house, photo credit Star Tribune

Building strong, more resilient communities that can adapt to a changing climate

Because we are already experiencing the effects of climate change, we not only need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions but also adapt to a changing climate. Building a more resilient community ensures we are better prepared for more abrupt and challenging situations.

foundational strategies

How we get started: Foundational strategies

Hennepin County has a wide-ranging climate action plan that touches nearly every facet of the work we do. The foundational strategies serve as the best place for the county to get started.