Spring 2016 Capstone Final Presentations

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Developing a Conservation Finance Strategy for the Western Indian Ocean Coastal Challenge (WIOCC)

Instructor: Jim Tolisano

The long-term integrity and resilience of biodiversity and ecosystems requires regional development projects to apply stringent safeguards to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse social and environmental impacts. Financial institutions and private investors are increasingly being driven to respond to such safeguards in their lending practices. At the same time, businesses are developing the capacity to abide by them, and governments are being strengthened to enforce them. The development and use of such standards in the lending and investment sector in particular can become a critical ingredient in the shift to a more “green economy”. At the same time, it is also essential to ensure that sufficient funds are available to pay for environmental mitigation, management, and monitoring work. A wide variety of sustainable business and income-generating opportunities are now being tested by entrepreneurs, non-profit conservation and civil society organizations, and governments to raise the capital necessary to finance the work of conservation.

Students in the Spring 2016 capstone experience have explored both sides of this conservation finance equation - the control of funds allocated for new development projects, and the raising of funds to pay for monitoring, mitigation, and management work. Specifically, the capstone students have worked as a team to develop a sustainable finance model for the Western Indian Ocean Coastal Challenge (WIOCC), a coalition of 7 mainland and island nations in the Western Indian Ocean region committed to mitigating and adapting to emerging threats from unsustainable resource use practices and climate alterations. The model will suggest possible local and regional policy changes, standards, tools, and methods that can help establish a “green” and “blue” economy in the Western Indian Ocean region, and provide important technical support to a long-term project being implemented by the  WIOCC in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Commission, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Innovations in Conservation, LLC.

Clean Power Plan for New York State

Instructor: William Rom

This Capstone Project will highlight a student-generated New York State Plan to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan draft promulgated by EPA.  The students will study the science of climate change and the role of power plants in carbon pollution, and devise a novel New York State plan to meet the carbon reduction requirements.  There will be participation by the Clean Air Office of Region 2 EPA (John Filippelli, Director of Clean Air and Sustainability Division).  We reviewed books on Wind and Solar, and heard from Brendan Noakes on harnessing solar power in New York.  Kim Knowlton PhD, environmental scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, presented the outlook from the environmentalists' perspective.  Lastly, we heard from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Jared Snyder) to capture their planning thoughts.  Reducing carbon pollution was far easier than thought, but the reduction in power, especially from retiring nuclear plants, is huge.  Replacing that lost power is a challenge for solar and wind requiring prioritization of construction and deployment on a scale and speed not heretofore considered.  Educating the public on what needs to be done by all is going to be necessary.  No longer is political fragmentation and polarization an option since this is one for all hands on board the deck.

Social Resiliency of Coastal Cities

Instructor: Maryam Hariri

Coastal cities, with their concentration of people, infrastructure, and economic activity, are facing unprecedented risks from climate change related natural disasters. With sea level rise, storms and extreme rainfall events projected to become more frequent and intense, vulnerability to flooding is increasing in neighborhoods both on the waterfront and in upland communities.

Cities around the world have responded by adopting a variety of “climate-proofing” strategies that focus on building smarter, stronger and/or higher infrastructure and protection systems. Yet, engineering solutions focus to heavily on reducing short-term risks, with little consideration for existing communities and integrated benefits.

The purpose of this capstone is to expand the consideration given to the social infrastructure in the context of climate change resiliency. It will ask: How can the social character and infrastructure of our neighborhoods make us more (or less) resilient to climate change related extreme weather events? More broadly, how does the built-social-ecological environment impact our lives? How can sound urban planning, and innovative urban design, promote social connections, interactions, relationships? How do we support the “sticky” networks that make communities more resilient during a disaster and also resilient to everyday challenges? Exploring these questions (and more) is thecentral focus of this course.