Making Charlotte a Climate-Ready and Just City

From the Center for American Progress, this report presents an analysis on climate change adaptation and resiliency in Charlotte, North Carolina. The report describes how the city is advancing climate action, primarily in building resilient communities prepared for extreme-weather events. The Center also provides recommendations for Charlotte, which focus on engaging working-class communities and integrating social equity considerations into resiliency planning and preparedness. 

The report describes how climate threats disproportionately affect working-class communities - especially in the form of heat and flood risks. Generally, Charlotte and the surrounding Piedmont region are more vulnerable to debilitating heat waves, water crises, and wildfires as well as damage from storms and flooding. And, the report notes, flooding due to a major rain event in Charlotte or upriver has the potential to be catastrophic. 

A review is given of the existing resilience-building community assets and efforts to mitigate extreme weather threats in Charlotte. The following are some examples of active adaptation initiatives - as paraphrased from the report.   

Expanding the tree canopyThe city is working to reduce air pollution and alleviate heat stress by increasing tree canopy cover by 2 percent and reversing development deforestation trends - with a goal to have half of Charlotte covered by trees by 2050. The 2017 Charlotte Urban Forest Master Plan also calls for financial assistance to low-income areas to help conserve tree canopy. 1

Creating public cooling areas: Charlotte is also building “spraygrounds” - playgrounds for children with water features. The majority of the Mecklenburg County’s sprayground facilities are located near Charlotte’s “crescent” neighborhoods, where families living in poverty are concentrated. 

Addressing Drought: In collaboration with Duke Energy, the city created a water management plan for the Catawba River. “Outtake from the Catawba River used to be so high that Charlotte was projected to run out of water by mid-century” - however the water management plan intends to protect the river and sustain Charlotte’s drinking water.

Reducing flood risks: Charlotte has continued the successful flood zone buyout program, as funded with FEMA grants since 1999, which now is primarily funded locally. The riparian buffer zones that were created through restored buyout are used as greenways, recreation areas, and community gardens.

The Center for American Progress recommends the following actions for climate resiliency, which are each expanded upon in the report:

  • Create and carry out an equitable and measurable climate action strategy
  • Effectively engage and empower communities to raise awareness of climate change threats as well as shape priorities and effective solutions at all stages of plan development and implementation
  • Assess working-class communities’ vulnerability and resilience to climate change and assess resilience strategies for equity
  • Reduce working-class communities’ heat risk through cooling centers and spraygrounds
  • Improve access to solar and wind energy
  • Expand access to safe and affordable active transit
  • Promote energy efficiency in homes and businesses
  • Expand green infrastructure to reduce flooding; provide cooler, cleaner air; and feed people
  • Make corporate social responsibility through deep decarbonization and natural resource conservation core to the Charlotte business community’s mission

 

Publication Date: August 2, 2017

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations
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