Delaware’s Climate Action Plan

In November 2021, Delaware released its statewide Climate Action Plan. Delaware has been affected by climate change in the form of increased temperatures, change in precipitation patterns, extreme weather, flooding, and sea-level rise. Delaware created the plan to strategically address future climate change impacts in the state. The plan was prepared by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. 

At the start of the plan, the state summarizes various statewide climate policies and programs that were created in the past decade. However, the state acknowledges that more climate actions need to be taken to address future impacts, and includes a section on the climate impacts facing Delaware. As such, this is the basis for the plan’s creation.

The plan outlines suggestions for both climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. Some of the goals in the plan related to climate change mitigation include expanding clean and renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency measures, transitioning to zero-emission vehicles and more efficient transportation systems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and managing greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide.

One of the plan’s sections titled, Plan to Maximize Resilience to Climate Change Impacts, is Delaware’s adaptation plan. In the section, the state begins by explaining the need to be more resilient and adapt for long-term climate change impacts. This section includes seven action categories state agencies can take to develop resilience and adaptation measures:

  1. Updated or new state regulations that address protection and conservation of vulnerable and impacted resources; 
  2. Support for communities and stakeholders in the form of trainings, resources, and technical assistance;
  3. Management plans for natural resources, emergency response, state facilities, and agency equipment; 
  4. Facility design and operation that accounts for future climate conditions; 
  5. Research and monitoring that studies the impacts of climate change and methods of adapting; 
  6. Outreach and education on climate change impacts and adapting to climate change; and 
  7. Agency support that provides the resources to implement resilience actions.

Each action category includes a deeper-dive into specific strategies and actions Delaware can take to implement the seven action categories. The state points out that though these action categories are aimed at guiding Delaware state-level agency actions, they also can support local and community-based climate change efforts. 

Among other notable parts of the plan, Delaware suggests that long-term management plans with a focus on future climate impacts can be created to prevent poor fiscal and asset management decisions. This includes creating a managed retreat plan, which Delaware defines as: A plan for the voluntary movement and transition of people and ecosystems away from vulnerable coastal areas. Georgetown Climate Center’s Managed Retreat Toolkit was cited as a reference for the definition. Under action category four, one of the state’s strategies is to: Update or create management plans to incorporate future climate projections. A potential action to implement this strategy is to: Develop a statewide managed retreat plan and update it periodically.

Delaware also highlights the importance of collaborating, partnering, and building trust with communities as a way to make future climate actions more equitable. The plan emphasizes the need for community engagement at the start of projects and continuing engagement through project implementation and monitoring, especially with communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Under action category two, one of the state’s strategies is to: Support programs and initiatives that help frontline communities adapt to climate change. To explain this strategy, Delaware states that: Frontline communities experience the first, and often worst, impacts of climate change. Many frontline communities are also often low-income, minority neighborhoods that are already disproportionally exposed to and negatively impacted by hazardous pollution and industrial practices. Georgetown Climate Center’s Equitable Adaptation Legal and Policy Toolkit was cited as one reference used to inform the plan’s focus on equity. 

Other common themes running through the plan and across action categories include incorporating climate change data and considerations into existing state planning, regulatory, permitting, and funding programs and processes, like the state’s coastal management program and grants for local governments. In addition, the state encourages different ideas like holding training sessions and workshops, sharing climate change data with state agencies, and participating in national and regional peer-learning efforts to build capacity across state agencies, local governments, and communities to address climate change and help Delaware “act as a climate change adaptation leader.” 

The plan concludes with a Next Steps section, which is “a framework for moving from planning to action, and defining equitable climate action.” In that section, Delaware points to the importance of how the plan should be implemented. To that effect, the state created three principles to guide potential future actions:

  1. Ensure climate action is ambitious yet adaptable;
  2. Ensure climate action accounts for all costs and benefits; and
  3. Ensure climate action is engaged, empowering, and equitable.

The plan includes a recognition of the importance of proactive climate action. Delaware hopes that by using the plan, government, businesses, and residents can work and coordinate together. The state intends for the plan to be a guide for action and one that adapts to changing conditions and needs. 

The plan was developed based upon a review of other states’ climate action plans, a technical analysis of Delaware’s greenhouse gas emissions, interviews with state agency staff, and stakeholder engagement. Additionally, Georgetown Climate Center and its Equitable Adaptation Legal and Policy Toolkit and Managed Retreat Toolkit were cited as references and were some of the many resources used to inform the plan. 

This plan is an update to the state’s previous climate mitigation and adaptation strategy, the Climate Framework for Delaware, which was released in March 2015. 

Publication Date: November 4, 2021

Related Organizations:

  • State of Delaware

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Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan

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