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Brownfields and Climate Change: Learning Opportunities at Brownfields 2015

Discovery Green is a former brownfield that is now a public urban park in Downtown Houston, Texas.

This is a guest post by Patricia Overmeyer, Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization (OBLR), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate change affects all of us by changing our environment, impacting our health, and in some cases, destroying our cities and coasts. As global citizens, the challenges of mitigating the effects of climate change and adapting to our changing environment is our collective responsibility. Which is why I plan to use the networking and training opportunities provided at the 2015 National Brownfields Training Conference to make climate change mitigation and adaptation a significant part of our agenda.

We can significantly reduce the impacts of climate change by reusing brownfields. By reusing brownfields and adopting transit-oriented development plans, communities can reduce vehicle miles traveled and reduce the carbon footprint of their redevelopment efforts. Communities also can reduce the overall effects of carbon emissions by increasing urban foliage as part of their brownfields revitalization plans. Or they can create carbon sinks through the reuse of brownfields and other abandoned properties as urban forests or stormwater retention areas which can contribute to carbon sequestration and therefore reduce the total amount of carbon contributed to the atmosphere. By incorporating greener methods into brownfields cleanups communities can reduce the carbon footprint of redevelopment. 

There are other things communities can do as they plan for the reuse of brownfields. Communities can adapt redevelopment plans and brownfields revitalization plans to include efforts to mitigate potential impacts of extreme weather events should they occur. By conducting brownfields area-wide planning activities that include revised or enhanced zoning, building codes, permitting requirements, and infrastructure plans communities can enhance resilience to climate change. All of these efforts will be topics of discussion at the National Brownfields Training Conference in Chicago. I invite you to join me to discuss our challenges and solutions within the context of brownfields reuse and community revitalization.

Brownfields 2015 will provide an opportunity for communities that are grappling with climate challenges to share best practices and lessons learned with their colleagues in other towns and cities across the country. Our educational programming agenda includes many opportunities for community leaders to share information and success stories on addressing climate change through their brownfields redevelopment projects. The conference will have sessions on reducing greenhouse gases when assessing and cleaning up brownfields, how to incorporate green infrastructure into brownfields redevelopment plans, how to adapt community revitalization plans to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events, how the incorporation of parks, foliage, and urban gardens into brownfields reuse plans to promote carbon sequestration, as well as many other topics.

We can reduce the impacts of climate change if we work together. We can use the conference as a learning opportunity for all attendees because climate change and its long term health and environmental impacts affect us all. It will present significant challenges for future generations if we do not take action now.

For more information on the Brownfields 2015, including how to register for this event, visit: