Resilient Midwestern Cities Improving Equity in a Changing Climate

Developed by the Center for American Progress, Resilient Midwestern Cities Improving Equity in a Changing Climate provides users with guidance on how to concurrently address climate change and equity issues by implementing climate change resiliency measures in low-income areas.  The report showcases  existing initiatives employed in 5 Midwestern cities, and draws out recommendations for further action. This report is primarily geared towards decision makers of Midwestern cities, but the lessons learned and recommendations apply to a much wider audience.

Understand principles and actions that policymakers can put to use to connect resilience initiatives to environmental justice priorities.

The report discusses the current and future impacts facing communities in the Midwest including higher intensity and frequency of extreme weather, heat waves and cold snaps.  The report documents how low-income communities and communities of color are subgroups of the population will be impacted the most.

The report discusses how 5 Midwestern cities: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Toledo, Ohio are working on long-term cost effective solutions to economic and social inequity through climate change initiatives. Projects include improving sustainable and equitable transit options, expanding urban tree planting and agriculture, building energy-efficient affordable housing, and increasing community involvement through public education. For example, the case study on Cleveland describes how a local non-profit called Cleveland Neighborhood Progress is partnering with the City and universities to train community members in climate science and adaptation so that they can work as climate change ambassadors to identify policies that respond to local needs.

While the report admits there is no standard blueprint for success, effective programs are distinguishable by their ability to promote social justice, inclusive economic growth, and public involvement of diverse community members. Based on lessons learned from the 5 case studies, the report provides the following recommendations for policy makers:

  • Ensure meaningful community engagement in designing resilience policies, and improve public awareness of climate change risks and effects.
  • Assess the vulnerability of low-income communities to climate change and other environmental threats
  • Improve energy efficiency and weatherization of homes
  • Expand access to distribute solar energy in low-income communities
  • Improve access to public transportation and bike share programs
  • Plant more trees, community gardens, and other green infrastructure
  • Strengthen social cohesion and networks to increase support during extreme weather events
  • Leverage community Development Block Grants from the department of Housing and Urban Development to invest in resilient and equitable communities.
  • Recognize and support resilience and social justice leadership.


Publication Date: April 2016

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  • Best practice

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