Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston's Built Environment for Increased flooding

The Sustainable Solutions Lab at the University of Massachusetts Boston examines the impacts of flooding from sea level rise and increased precipitation on the City of Boston’s built environment in this report. Along with discussing the governance challenges as related to to these climate change impacts, the report offers policy recommendations and governance strategies to improve resilience to increased flooding. The report is built upon the Climate Ready Boston (CRB) project, and offers recommendations on the implementation of its initiatives as well as policy reform to further flooding adaptation.

22 local, regional, state and national level governance tools (e.g. laws, ordinances, regulations, policies, and plans) that are available to support the implementation of flooding adaptation in Boston are examined in Chapter 3. Boston’s local governance tools described include: Zoning codes (e.g. Boston’s Flood Resilience Overlay District),  Policies (e.g. Boston’s Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Policy) and Plans (e.g. CRB, Municipal Harbor Plans).

Each local, state, regional and national governance tool is listed with:

  • a description of its purpose;
  • its applicability as it relates to climate change;
  • its limitations in a changing climate, either of its applicability or the way in which it limits that which it regulates; and
  • suggestions for ways the tool can be altered to improve resilient outcomes.

The report identifies priorities for reforming these existing tools as well.  Particular law and policy reforms are discussed as follows:

  1. Institute Resilient Chapter 91- Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act Amendments
  2. Revise the Massachusetts Building Code
  3. Create a New Zoning Overlay District
  4. Update and Provide Guidance related to the Wetlands Protection Act
  5. Work with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to Increase Permitting Flexibility

This report builds on the Climate Ready Boston project and report and Chapter 4 identifies the recommendations in the CRB report for improved governance mechanisms around flooding in Boston. For each strategy, the governance scale, responsible organization, governance tool, and governance function is described. 

Chapter 5 provides specific recommendations for prioritizing changes to existing tools and implementing CRB initiatives - including establishing an Infrastructure Coordination Committee, convening a Climate Research Advisory Organization, and establishing governance for district-scale coastal flood protection.

This is the third and final in a series of reports from the Sustainable Solutions Lab that were sponsored by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission with support from the Barr Foundation. The first, Financing Climate Resilience: Mobilizing Resources and Incentives to Protect Boston from Climate Risks, assessed the projected costs and financing options for climate resilience in Boston. 


Publication Date: September 2018

Authors or Affiliated Users:

Related Organizations:

  • University of Massachusetts


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


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