barbara sharief_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — Last week was “Durban Appreciation Days” in Broward County, as was noted during the Broward County Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 11. The appreciation days, March 10-14, coincided with the visit of five officials from Durban, South Africa.

Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale hosted the delegation from Durban for a week-long visit focusing on a variety of environmental issues. Durban is located on the Indian Ocean coast in eastern South Africa and shares many common features with Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, including warm climates, strong tourism sectors and diverse populations.

The South African visitors all work for the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department of eThekwini Municipality, which encompasses the city of Durban and surrounding communities. With more than 3.4 million residents, it is the third-largest metropolitan municipality in South Africa, behind only Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The Durban delegation is led by Dr. Debra Roberts, deputy head of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, joined by Geoffrey Tooley, catchment manager; Sean O’Donoghue, Climate Protection Branch manager; Andrew Mather, Coastal Policy Project executive; and Richard Boon, Biodiversity Planning manager.

The Durban visitors are particularly interested in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (Compact), which was originally signed by Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in 2009 to facilitate close collaboration on the issues of climate adaptation and reduction of carbon emissions.

“We are honored to host the city of Durban for this historic visit, and we value this opportunity to share information and formulate strategies on how to best address and mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler. “We look forward to raising the dialogue as we continue to work together to identify innovative, transformative solutions to strengthen our resiliency and ensure the long-term sustainability and prosperity of our collective communities.”

The program for the Durban delegation’s visit included a tour of Fort Lauderdale and a discussion of stormwater issues; a tour of Port Everglades and Everglades Holiday Park; visits to environmental restoration sites at Fern Forest and Hillsboro Pineland; and a special meeting of the Compact Staff Steering Committee to discuss southeast Florida’s successful regional model of cooperative work on climate issues.

Broward County has proven that regional cooperation is effective in planning for climate change. This is an approach that can be shared worldwide, and we are extremely pleased to be working with Durban to help them develop regional approaches to climate preparedness and community resilience,” said Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief. “We hope and expect this visit is just the beginning of a long relationship between our two regions.”

The exchange between Durban and Broward/Fort Lauderdale began in June 2013, when Dr. Jennifer Jurado, director of the Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division, and Susanne Torriente, assistant city manager of Fort Lauderdale, spent a week in Durban learning about environmental and climate preparedness activities there and sharing insights about corresponding activities in southeast Florida.

The exchange is supported by CityLinks, a program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).