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GreenStep City Best Practices Resilient Economic & Community Development

Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience
no. 29

Plan and prepare for extreme weather, adapt to changing climatic conditions, and foster stronger community connectedness and social and economic vitality.

Sustainability and Resilience are different lenses that overlap. Sustainable communities strive to achieve economic stability, environmental health, and social wellbeing for all without compromising opportunities for future generations to enjoy the same. Resilient communities understand that impacts of climate change are occurring now. Resilient communities prepare for, adapt to, and thrive in the face of abrupt and unforeseen weather, social, and economic changes, while increasing the use of clean energy sources and enhancing local grid infrastructure to limit risk and accelerate recovery from disaster, now and into the future. Many sustainability best practices are also resilience best practices, providing co-benefits to reduce risk, enhance public amenities, decrease GHG emissions, strengthen air and water quality, and more.

FEMA describes the social and economic benefits of resilience as including:

  • Preventing loss of life and injury.
  • Reducing property damage to homes and businesses.
  • Helping to lower emergency response and disaster recovery times.
  • Attracting new businesses and residents.
  • Protecting cultural and historical assets.
  • Reducing environmental damage.
  • Building a sense of place and peace of mind.

Delivering Urban Resilience, a 2018 report from the clean energy advisory and venture capital firm Capital E, crunches the numbers on three cities (Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, El Paso) and concludes that investing in city-wide adoption of cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV, reflective pavements, and urban trees could deliver roughly half a trillion dollars in net financial benefits nationally. As smart surface deployment scales up, the urban cooling benefits would also grow proportionally, further reducing regional energy bills and smog, and improving health and livability in ways that bring compounding benefits, especially for low-income populations.

According Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report, by the National Institute of Building Sciences, exceeding I-code requirements for new building construction to protect against riverine flood has a benefit cost ratio of 5:1.

The Center for Climate Preparedness Weathering Change: Local Solutions for Strong Communities Webinar Series puts the climate adaptation and resilience insights of national and local experts at your fingertips.

Learn from MPCA how community assets provide many co-benefits while increasing community resilience to climate change.

A report of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development after Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that communities with stronger pre-existing social networks recovered more quickly.

Step 3 recognition minimum for category A, B and C cities
All Category A, B and C cities are recognized upon completion of action 1.

Category A & B cities must complete action 1 at a 1-Star rating plus either a 2- or 3-Star rating for Step 3 recognition.

Resilient communities have the strength to withstand, respond to, and adapt more readily to acute shocks (such as flooding from extreme precipitation) and chronic stresses (such as ongoing effects of the changing climate on the local tourist economy). The urban heat island effect may worsen chronic stresses.

Minnesota already is experiencing changes to its highly variable climate with shorter winters, fewer cold extremes, and more heavy and extreme precipitation resulting in repeated freeze-thaw cycles, a longer growing season, and new invasive species. Based on climate modeling, it is expected that in the future Minnesota additionally will face heat extremes and drought, with diminished air quality from increased wildfire smoke, higher levels of ozone, more pollen, etc. Implementing best practice actions to plan and prepare for such events and trends will strengthen cities for greater resilience to the changing climate.

This best practice is organized according to the four essential dimensions of urban resilience from The City Resilience Framework as follows:

  • Health & Wellbeing - provide access to resources to help everyone survive extreme weather and the changing climate. (Action 1)
  • Leadership & Strategy - implement effective leadership, inclusive decision-making, empowerment of stakeholders, and integrated planning. (Action 2)
  • Economy & Society - promote cohesive and engaged communities and foster economic prosperity. (Actions 3 and 4)
  • Infrastructure & Environment - protect, enhance, and ensure continuity of the constructed and natural systems that provide critical services and connect urban assets. (Actions 5 through 8)
greenstep advisor
Laura Millberg, MBA, LEED AP BD+C, Sustainable Development and Climate Resilience Principal Planner, MN Pollution Control Agency: 651/757-2568, Laura.Millberg@state.mn.us
connection to state Policy

On October 16, 2015, Governor Dayton signed the Under 2 MOU, a global compact among cities, states and regions worldwide to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding recommits Minnesota to limit the impact of climate change and to collaborate on actions that promote adaptation and resilience, with an eye toward maximizing benefits for both GHG emissions reduction and climate adaptation. Parties to the agreement will share best practices integrating projected climate impacts into planning and investment. They will look to green infrastructure solutions that maximize ecologic benefits while providing protection, and share best practices in designing and deploying these solutions. They will share innovative practices for financing and supporting climate adaptation.