Guide to Equitable, Community-Driven Climate Preparedness Planning

From the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), this guide is aimed at local government and outlines a framework for designing and implementing a community-driven, equitable climate preparedness planning process. Community-driven planning empowers those experiencing the greatest climate risks to co-define the solutions. Rather than treating equity as a component of climate preparedness planning, this guide suggests that equity should be at the center of any adaptation approach. It outlines why traditional planning falls short of supporting equity, describes why climate change vulnerability is not evenly spread, and identifies how typical adaptation strategies can be reframed to focus on equity. Throughout the document, examples from cities are presented to showcase real-world applications.

To understand who will be most sensitive to climate change impacts, the report suggests considering the root causes of inequity, social factors, and biological factors. It posits, “racism is a key factor influencing climate vulnerability. Structural and institutional racism in our economic, government, and social systems has resulted and continues to result in the disproportionate distribution of the benefits and burdens of our society leading to increased climate risk.” The report encourages local officials to reflect on government’s role in perpetuating racial inequalities, noting that if “racial inequities are not openly acknowledged in climate action planning, it is likely they will be created, worsened, and/or perpetuated.”

Given existing institutional and structural racism, climate planning can address three equity objectives: 1) procedural, 2) distributional, and 3) structural. To effectively do this, the report suggests a whole government approach that will facilitate cross-sector and cross-agency collaboration. This will leverage the resources needed to respond to community-driven feedback.  

Section 3 outlines the framework for supporting community driven planning. It suggests that local governments may find it challenging to apply all the concepts at once, but that this can be part of a long-term commitment to support equity. In fact, assessing community and local government readiness is the suggested first step in the adaptation process.  The plan references characteristics of community driven planning adapted from Movement Strategy Center’s Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning Framework.

For each step of adaptation planning process, from assessing community readiness  to monitoring and reviewing implemented actions, the guide lists steps and activities local officials can take, and provides resources and examples for additional inspiration.

The final chapter presents policy options that build community resilience and reduce social inequities to four impact-based categories: 1) extreme heat, 2) urban flooding and coastal flooding, 3) wildfires and air quality, and 4) rising utility and food costs. For each it identifies the risk factors that increase vulnerability to that climate impact. For example, for urban heat, a lack of green spaces, poor housing, social isolation, and limited English proficiency contribute to heat vulnerability. It also identifies the contributing causes of those risks, such as chronic poverty, lack of access to affordable healthcare, and decreased social cohesion. Then it presents strategies that consider equity (see example below). In addition to these broad impact-specific strategy recommendations, the report provides more concrete strategies in Table 8, often with accompanying examples. 


Publication Date: May 2017

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  • Planning guides
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User Comments:

  • January 29, 2018
    Meredith McGuire, retired Professor at Trinity University

    Good points. We share the position about the importance of Community-based planning through all phases. This source seems a bit too simplistic, but I'm glad to have it to compare with other resources. Some of our community partners are saying they don't like having sources that seem to \"talk down\" at them, so what I'm wondering is: how much simplification is helpful and at what point does simple phrasing imply condescension?