Smart Policies for a Changing Climate: the Report and Recommendations of the ASLA Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) interdisciplinary Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience has identified key planning and design strategies, and public policies to establish healthy, climate-smart, and resilient communities. The strategies are founded on core principles of design for natural systems, community development, vulnerable communities, transportation and agriculture.  Many of these policy recommendations focus on the integration of climate resilience and adaptation into land use planning and development.

The ability to design around maintaining the integrity of natural systems, or ecosystems, strengthens climate resilience, secures the ongoing benefits of nature resources, and has been found to provide a greater long-term return on investment than conventional development.

ASLA’s recommendations for Natural Systems all relate to climate adaptation solutions:

  • Provide dedicated funding for green stormwater infrastructure.
  • Require new development to retain stormwater on site.
  • Incentivize planting of locally/regionally appropriate and biodiversity-supporting vegetation; require planting of pollinator-friendly vegetation on public lands.
  • Protect and enhance natural vegetative buffers, including wetlands and water’s edge plantings, along coastlines and inland waterways.
  • Prioritize retention and expansion of green space; address inequities in access to open space and recreation.
  • Adopt a national urban and suburban tree planting strategy to preserve and expand tree canopy.
  • Promote or require water conservation and water reuse technologies.
  • Adopt a national water strategy to protect critical water sources.
  • Incentivize healthy soil management practices.
  • Preserve wildlands.
  • Assess climate change risks to biodiversity and promote greenways and bio-corridors for plant and animal migration.

Vulnerable Communities such as those “located in coastal and inland floodplains as well as underserved and low-income communities” are described as having unique and compounded risks from the effects of climate change. Many policy recommendations for Vulnerable Communities are directed at both climate resilience and social equity:

  • Develop suitable relocation, retreat, and/or evacuation plans.
  • Protect floodplain functions by avoiding building in floodplains except for minimal impact uses that can accommodate inundation, such as recreational uses, and for essential water-related functions that do not reduce floodplain storage capacity or put people or structures at risk.
  • Update FEMA flood maps and include an analysis of claims data to capture impervious-surface-driven flooding outside floodplains. Include projections of future climate change impacts.
  • Limit or prohibit building in fire-prone areas where native vegetation is dense and that are difficult to access by fire and rescue services.


Community Development concepts aim for compact, walkable, transit-oriented development that reduces energy use. When designed to incorporate and protect ecosystems, these “smart growth” communities are also climate resilient.

Many of the Community Development Policy Recommendations are focused on climate resilience, such as:

  • Require climate change analysis of existing laws, rules, and regulations to identify and address areas that are inadvertently incompatible with climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. Since design and planning are heavily driven and/or constrained by insurance rules, zoning, and codes, review and revision of existing regulations and policies are essential to promote climate-smart growth.
  • Develop municipal and regional climate resilience plans drawing on both historic data and projections/models of future impacts. Make data available and transparent to the public, and create guidance/models for communities to follow.
  • Create community investment trusts to fund local green infrastructure and resilient design projects. A community investment trust is a financial inclusion tool created to empower residents and strengthen communities by removing barriers to financial inclusion and providing a low-dollar property investment opportunity to local residents.

The report mentions that when Transportation systems are planned and designed thoughtfully, they can promote climate resilience in addition to climate mitigation principals.

Agriculture systems are described as being stressed by climate change impacts and unsustainable farming practices. One of the policy recommendations for agriculture is to: “Adopt agricultural policies and farm insurance programs that encourage conservation farming practices that build soil health, increase food’s nutritional value, and sequester carbon.”


ASLA has created a forum for sharing and discussing models and best practices. Join the dialogue and contribute your expertise at


Publication Date: July 9, 2018

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User Comments:

  • August 9, 2018
    Jessica Grannis, Coastal Resilience Director at National Audubon Society

    Report with useful information about how landscape architecture approaches can be used to enhance community resilience