Miami-Dade County

She gave her name and millions to the Arsht Center. Now she’s tackling climate change.

Philanthropist Adrienne Arsht at the performing arts center that bears her name in 2014.
Philanthropist Adrienne Arsht at the performing arts center that bears her name in 2014. Miami Herald file

The philanthropist and business executive who gave her name, and $35 million, to Miami’s Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is now putting up another large sum towards a new cause — adaptation to climate change and other resiliency crises. And Miami-Dade, on the front line for sea-level rise, may be first in line for assistance.

The Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., international-affairs think tank, on Monday announced a $25 million gift from Adrienne Arsht to establish a “resiliency” center that will help devise ways to cope with problems arising from climate change, increasing migration and other social and economic crises — including how the insurance industry will handle the consequences of rising seas and natural disasters supercharged by climate change. The Arsht gift has been supplemented by a $30 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation announced earlier in April.

Miami-Dade will be the first official “community partner” of the expanded Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, though details of what that will entail are still being worked out, said the county’s chief resilience officer, James Murley.

“It’s an evolving thing,” Murley said. “I think it is overall a promising opportunity for Miami-Dade County.”

The announcement of Arsht’s gift comes as Rockefeller winds down what has been the largest private initiative to address climate change adaptation. That initiative has been a chief funder of a broad and ambitious climate-resiliency effort in Miami-Dade.

Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities program covered the salary of the city of Miami’s first resiliency officer for two years and paid consultants to help the city, county and Miami Beach develop a strategy to adapt to climate change and strengthen communities to weather disasters and other crises. Miami’s office of resiliency, headed by Jane Gilbert, is now funded by the city. The county and Miami Beach also fund their resiliency offices. The county office under Murley has now grown to 11 staffers.

Their joint strategy plan, meanwhile, will be released by the end of May, Murley said. The plan, developed in conjunction with consultants at the local office of planning and engineering giant AECOM, will serve as the bible for local governments to follow in coping with the effects of climate change, rising seas and other disasters.

Arsht, who lives in Washington but keeps a home in Miami, is former chair of TotalBank and a top donor to the Atlantic Council, where she serves as executive vice chair. She launched the Arsht resiliency center at the council in 2016.

The center’s stated goal is to reach one billion people worldwide by 2030 through “a range of evidence-based and innovative approaches, including policy frameworks, finance and risk transfer tools, and technology and communication strategies, including the performing arts.”

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