Adaptation & Resilience

Policies to prepare for the local impacts of the climate crisis and other environmental disasters

Governance and Planning

Governance Structures

Permanent adaptation/resilience staff members are state employees that oversee policies and programs related to resilience planning, vulnerability and risk assessments, and disaster recovery. Increasing community resilience requires dedicating staff time and resources to properly engage communities, ensure collaboration among state agencies, and tackle the unique challenges of the state. These staff members can work within an executive office focused on adaptation and resilience, such as a state Resiliency Office, or can be an appointed position, such as a “Chief Resilience Officer.” 

On the other hand, adaptation and/or resilience advisory bodies tend to be composed of state staff, appointed experts, and stakeholders representing various communities, who are responsible for making policy recommendations and increasing public engagement. These are often working groups or advisory councils. 

Key Resources

Model States

    Adaptation and Resilience Plans/Frameworks

    At the state level, adaptation planning outlines current and projected climate change impacts and response actions. This process typically results in a document called an adaptation plan, that identifies strategies to protect human health and safety, the natural and built environment, and the economy. State agencies consider climate change impacts in local planning and infrastructure: zoning, housing, employment, transportation, and building codes. 

    While adaptation plans tend to focus only on climate impacts, resilience planning can encompass broader challenges the state and/or local communities will face, including shocks and stressors interconnected with climate impacts. State-level resilience plans can focus on preparedness across state agencies and/or provide resources and a planning framework for local governments and communities.

    Key Resources

    Model States

          Climate Hazard Mitigation Plans

          Climate hazard mitigation plans include recommended policies or government interventions intended to reduce the immediate and long-term risks to human life and property from climate-related hazards. They typically include state actions as well as resources and recommendations for tribes, counties, and communities. States commonly produce these plans for droughts, wildfires, flooding, among other natural hazards.

          Key Resources

          Model States

            Solutions and Funding

            Building Codes, Land Use, and Zoning Laws

            Building codes, land use, and zoning laws can be updated for disaster preparedness to ensure safety during events such as floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and heat waves. This might include new recommendations for the weatherization of buildings, or considering climate impacts such as sea level rise or wildfire risk in new development projects (for instance, implementing laws requiring new developments be a specified distance away from coastlines). Relocating, repairing/improving, or retrofitting important facilities, like water treatment plants, power plants, and landfills, to ensure they can still provide service during extreme weather events and do not cause health and safety issues are also important measures to account for climate impacts.

            Key Resources

            Model States

            • Relocating, repairing/improving, or retrofitting important facilities, like water treatment plants, power plants, and landfills, to ensure they can still provide service during natural disasters and do not cause health and safety issues like water contamination are also important measures states can implement (e.g. NJ has done this).
            • Maine’s Act to Help Municipalities Prepare for Sea Level Rise

              Built/Hard Infrastructure

              Climate change will impact built structures from buildings to power plants to highways. States can study and develop policies that consider the potential effects of sea level rise, wildfires, and extreme weather on buildings, transportation infrastructure, sewage treatment facilities, and other municipal or private facilities. Investing in “hard” shoreline structures, such as levees and floodwalls, to protect against extreme weather are also policy solutions states can implement.

              Key Resources

              Model States

                Grid Resilience Measures

                Microgrids are self-sufficient energy systems that typically serve distinct, local areas. They use one or more kinds of distributed energy sources (typically solar) to produce electricity.  When damage to traditional, centralized utilities occurs, microgrids can independently provide power until utility service is restored. This can be especially important for essential infrastructure such as emergency shelters, hospitals, water pumps, and telecommunications. Expansion of such distributed renewable energy sources will be increasingly important as states proceed with energy transitions and electrifying their economies, while mitigating climate impacts that affect utility service.

                “Hardening” the energy grid involves taking actions that strengthen grid infrastructure to make it more resilient to climate hazards and protect customers from weather-related outages. This ability for continued operations under climate impacts is sometimes called enhanced “absorptive capacity” of the energy system. Several actions can be taken to harden the energy grid. Renewables are a growing feature of grid-hardening as they’re conducive to energy storage and distributed energy systems. Diversified energy sources, redundancies (p. 50, 84), pole reinforcing and undergrounding of electric lines all increase the grid’s capacity to stay online during extreme weather. Additionally, grid modernization measures, including demand response, smart meters, and energy conservation and efficiency efforts, can improve grid sensitivity and response time so it can adjust more quickly to disruptions.

                Key Resources

                Model States

                • California is working on microgrid implementation as a wildfire resilience measure
                • Connecticut created a microgrid pilot program/grant program to be administered by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
                • Hawaii’s Act 2013-34 (2013) – Advanced Grid Modernization, improving reliability, efficiency, resilience, and capacity for renewables
                • NY’s Prize program provided funding for microgrid development through three phases, from study to construction.
                • Massachusetts provided $75m for microgrid feasibility studies.

                  Ecosystem Protection

                  Natural solutions aim to maintain or restore ecosystems and habitats to mitigate negative climate impacts. According to the EPA, healthy ecosystems can, for instance, reduce sediment and nutrient inputs, regulate runoff, and buffer against storm surges. Measures that preserve natural ecosystems are also often called “soft” adaptation measures. Removing invasive plants to reduce wildfire risk, planting vegetation that stabilizes sediment and reduces coastal erosion, remediating coastal brownfield sites, and removing “hard” shoreline structures to allow for shoreline migration (living shorelines) are all examples of natural solutions.

                  In terms of policy implementation, coastal/stream bank health can be maintained through rolling easements, identifying and protecting ecologically significant areas, creating permitting rules that constrain locations for hazardous waste sites, land acquisition/exchange programs (purchasing upland property/development rights), and dedicating funding towards natural solutions or state conservation trusts.

                  Key Resources

                  Model States

                  • Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast includes a list of projects and strategies that build or maintain land and reduce risk to communities. 
                  • Delaware has permanently protected an estimated 90% of its coastline through mechanisms like the Open Space Program and the Coastal Zone Act Program, and its Beach Preservation Act directs the DNR and Environmental Control to prevent and repair damage to shorelines and has a dedicated funding source. 
                  • New Mexico aims to set aside 30 percent of the state’s lands and waters by 2030 for conservation and another 20 percent for climate stabilization.
                  • CAL FIRE purchases or accepts donations of conservation easements or fee title of productive forest lands to encourage their long-term conservation

                    Green Stormwater Infrastructure

                    Green infrastructure relies on vegetation, soil, and other natural systems to manage water quality and stormwater impacts. Examples of green infrastructure include green roofs, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, urban greening, permeable pavements, and land conservation. States can require incorporation of green infrastructure in new construction and development projects, and directly invest in green infrastructure.

                    Key Resources

                    Model States

                    • California’s AB 65 prioritizes funding “natural infrastructure” projects for climate adaptation, defining natural infrastructure as conservation/management of ecosystems and/or engineered systems that can be combined with natural systems to provide ecosystem and human benefits.

                      State Funding and Resources

                      State agencies can assist local communities and municipalities with finding adaptation and resilience solutions and funding to protect human health and infrastructure through state-run programs. They can also assist in the coordination of funding between public and private actors through incentive programs. States can establish “resilience banks” to fund disaster preparedness and response programs, infrastructure investments, and research.

                      Key Resources

                      Model States

                      • Maryland Act 644 (2021) – Establishes the Resilient Maryland Revolving Loan Fund
                      • Rhode Island S 0035 (2021) – Establishes the Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resilience Fund

                        Equitable Response

                        Identify Vulnerabilities in Communities

                        As climate-related impacts worsen, state governments must identify and address climate change impacts and vulnerabilities in communities. A Community Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) is part of the adaptation planning process, better informs public investment, and can help communities get the resources they need to respond to climate impacts. A CVA identifies ways a community can address specific needs related to:

                        • Demographics
                        • Vulnerability of resources
                        • Livelihood and income
                        • Awareness of personal vulnerability
                        • Access to climate-related information
                        • Community resilience and governance
                        • Equitable access to resources

                        Key Resources

                        Model States

                        • California EO B-30-15 requires consideration of climate change impacts in the State’s Infrastructure Investment Plan and in all state planning and investment decisions. The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) established by the order released the Resiliency Guidebook Vulnerable Populations report to identify population groups most impacted by climate change.

                          Managed Retreat

                          Among different definitions and conceptions of this coastal adaptation strategy, managed retreat may be defined as the voluntary movement of people and ecosystems from high-risk coastal areas. In addition to building “hard” shoreline structures, governments can consider relocating people and infrastructure before disasters cause damage and threaten health and safety. Managed retreat requires comprehensive planning and understanding of climate impacts, community engagement and equitable approaches, and typically funding to implement these relocation projects.

                          Key Resources

                          U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit – Relocation

                          Model States

                            Other Policies

                            Climate Governance & Equity

                            Electricity

                            Buildings & Efficiency

                            Transportation

                            Agriculture

                            Industry, Materials & Waste Management

                            What are we missing? Let us know!