Rockefeller to end city-based climate change program and lay off staff

The Rockefeller Foundation is ending a localized climate change initiative focused on building resiliency across 100 U.S. cities, a move that will see staff layoffs.

The foundation announced Monday the decision to end its 100 Resilient Cities initiative, the largest privately funded climate adaptation program in the country.

Instead, the foundation plans to transition grant funding to new partnerships in what the group is calling a "new phase." One of those new projects includes a $30 million grant to the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience (AACR) at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

"The Rockefeller Foundation has been at the forefront of helping address the world’s most complex challenges, and its 100 Resilient Cities initiative has made an indelible impact on the resilience of cities, inside and outside of their network," Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the AACR at the Atlantic Council, said in a statement. "We are excited to begin a new chapter of this resilience movement." 

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The 100 Resilient Cities program began in 2013 as a push to help U.S. cities adapt to the threats of a warming globe. Rockefeller initially extended grants to major U.S. cities that included Miami, New York and Boston.

Under the program, more than 80 cities hired chief resilience officers and created resilience strategies looking toward the end of 2019, according to Rockefeller. The group said 2,600 projects and initiatives utilizing more than $3 billion in funding have been proposed in member cities under the initiative.

Rockefeller provided $164 million in grant money to the program.

"I am immensely proud of the work achieved by 100 Resilient Cities to integrate resilience in cities and communities around the world, and the Foundation is committed to working with cities and CROs to ensure this work is institutionalized," said Rajiv Shah, foundation president, in a statement.

But with the winding down of the program, job cuts are also expected. The program's 86 staff members were informed Monday that their last day would be in July, Bloomberg reported.

The organization’s offices in New York, Mexico City, London and Singapore are also expected to close, according to Bloomberg.

The changes to the funding follow a notable shift in focus away from climate change initiatives under the Trump administration. President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE has long questioned the human impact on global warming and has promised that the U.S. will pull out of the momentous Paris climate agreement negotiated under Obama.

As the Trump administration has increasingly challenged climate science, the rhetoric too has changed, with officials preferring the term "resilience" to climate change when referencing methods to plan for global warming events.

The Trump administration has similarly questioned the science behind climate change, with the White House reportedly working on creating a special committee to counter known science linking climate change to national security risks.