This page provides an overview of the steps Virginia is taking to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
On December 21, 2007, Governor Tim Kaine established the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change (through Executive Order 59). The executive order also directed the Commission to create a Climate Action Plan that would evaluate expected impacts of climate change on Virginia's natural resources, public health, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and insurance sectors.
On December 15, 2008, the Governor’s Commission released its Final Report: A Climate Change Action Plan ("2008 Plan"). The 2008 Plan details the Commission’s findings regarding climate impacts, particularly sea-level rise, on the state’s infrastructure, coastline, and military installations. While the 2008 Plan focuses primarily on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it includes a set of goals related to preparing for climate impacts. Specifically, it calls on state agencies to begin to consider climate change in planning and decisionmaking processes. The Governor’s Commission was not continued under Governor Bob McDonnell, who was in office from 2010 to 2014.
On July 1, 2014, Governor Terry McAuliffe created a new Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission (Update Commission) to review, update, and prioritize the goals of the 2008 Climate Change Action Plan (through Executive Order 19, Convening The Governor’s Climate Change And Resiliency Update Commission). The Commission developed recommendations through work groups focused on public education, information, energy, land use, and transportation and one group was also charged with identifying sources of revenue to fund the implementation of these goals. The Update Commission released its Report and Final Recommendations to the Governor in December 2015. Based on the Commission's recommendations, the state has taken several actions, such as appointing a state Chief Resilience Officer and developing a statewide protocol for sea-level rise projections. Other recommendations in the 2015 report call on the state to establish a Climate Change and Resilience Resource Center to provide technical assistance to decisionmakers and information to the public, to create a bank for energy and resilience projects, and to leverage federal investments with state bonds to invest in coastal resilience projects.
Legislation Supporting Coastal Resilience
In 2011, the Virginia legislature enacted Senate Bill (SB) 964, which called on state agencies to develop guidance and provide technical assistance to Virginia localities on adapting to changing coastal conditions, including sea-level rise.
In March 2012, the Virginia Legislature passed House Joint Resolution No. 50, which directed the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to study the impacts of recurrent flooding in Tidewater and Eastern Shore localities, and to identify adaptation strategies for recurrent flooding. The VIMS Recurrent Flood Study for Tidewater Virginia was published in January 2013. In response to the VIMS study, the legislature convened a Joint Subcommittee on Recurrent Flooding to make recommendations for how the state can respond and adapt to the threat of recurrent flooding and sea-level rise; the Joint Subcommittee released its report in September 2014 (Recommendations to the Secure Commonwealth Panel on the Issue of Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding in Coastal Virginia).
In 2015, the legislature enacted SB 1443, which requires jurisdictions within the Hampton Roads Regional Planning Commission’s district (e.g., Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, VA) to identify sea-level rise adaptation strategies in local comprehensive plans.
In 2016, the Virginia legislature established the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund, a revolving fund designed to provide low-interest loans to homeowners and businesses to help them retrofit buildings to enhance flood resilience. In 2020, the state legislature amended the fund's authorizing statute and renamed it the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund. Among other updates, the purpose of the fund was broadened to address inland, in addition to coastal flooding and added more types of revenue, including from the state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, that can be used to source the fund. The state anticipates approximately $45 million annually will be available for the fund, which will go to low-interest loans and grants for flood relief projects that prioritize natural solutions to flood risk reduction. In 2021, Virginia plans to disburse $60 million from the fund. The state also released draft guidelines, which will inform the annual implementation of the fund, for public comment.
And in 2018, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation (SB 265) creating an executive branch position, Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, to lead the development of a statewide coastal flooding adaptation strategy. The state is in the process of fulfilling this 2018 mandate with the release of the Coastal Resilience Master Plan Framework in 2020. The Framework presents Virginia's strategy for implementing coastal protection and adaptation measures to increase the flood resilience of coastal communities and economies. The Framework is the first step in a two-step process to develop a Coastal Resilience Master Plan by the end of 2021. Specifically, the Framework identifies the goals and guiding principles that will inform the development of the Master Plan, details ongoing state and federal efforts that support coastal adaptation, and presents the scientific, legal, and socioeconomic foundations for the future Master Plan. Through the Framework and the Master Plan, Virginia aims to improve the Commonwealth's resilience and adaptability to sea-level rise, increased high tide flooding, and the more frequent and intense storms that result from climate change.
These pages highlight the progress Virginia is making in implementing the goals set forth in its 2008 Plan. Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed and adopted to help Virginia prepare for the impacts of climate change, are featured in the chart below.
The Georgetown Climate Center’s State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks the progress states are making in implementing adaptation plans, was supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
(Research last updated: January 7, 2021).
|Resource Name||Resource Type||Date|
|Virginia SB 320 Community Flood Preparedness Fund||Funding||April 22, 2020|
|Virginia S 265: Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection||Law and Governance||June 22, 2018|
|Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund||Law and Governance||April 20, 2016|
|Virginia SB 1443: comprehensive plan sea-level rise strategies||Law and Governance||March 16, 2015|
|Virginia EO 19: Convening the Governor's Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission||Law and Governance||July 1, 2014|
|Virginia HJ 16: Recurrent flooding; joint subcommittee established to formulate recommendations to address||Law and Governance||March 8, 2014|
|Virginia HJ 50: Flooding; Virginia Institute of Marine Science to study strategies to prevent in Tidewater localities||Law and Governance||March 9, 2012|
|Virginia SB 964 (2011): Coastal resource management; Living Shorelines; VA Marine Resources Commission, et al. to develop integrated guidance.||Law and Governance||April 29, 2011|
|Executive Order 59 (2007- VA) the Governor's Commission on Climate Change||Law and Governance||December 21, 2007|
|Resource Name||Sector(s) Covered||Date|
|Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework||Coastal|
|Virginia Climate Change and Resilience Commission Report to the Governor||Coastal, Energy, Information technology, Land use and built environment, Transportation||December 21, 2015|
|VA Dept of Conservation and Recreation: Guidance for Local Floodplain Ordinances in Virginia||Coastal, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment||October 2011|
|Virginia Strategy for Safeguarding Species of Greatest Conservation Need from the Effects of Climate Change||Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Fish and fisheries, Wildlife||November 2009|
|Virginia Governor's Commission on Climate Change Final Report: A Climate Change Action Plan||Agriculture and food, Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Fish and fisheries, Forestry, Insurance, Land use and built environment, Public health||December 15, 2008|
|Virginia Beach Sea Level Wise Adaptation Strategy||March 31, 2020|
|Building a Better Norfolk: A Zoning Ordinance of the 21st Century - Norfolk, Virginia||January 23, 2018|
|Norfolk Vision 2100||November 22, 2016|
|Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience Intergovernmental Pilot Project Phase 2 Report: Recommendations, Accomplishments and Lessons Learned||October 19, 2016|
|Eastern Shore of Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan||2016|
|Norfolk, Virginia Resilience Strategy||October 28, 2015|
|Coastal Resiliency: Adapting to Climate Change in Hampton Roads, Virginia||July 2013|
|City of Alexandria, Virginia Energy and Climate Change Action Plan: Local Actions to Save Energy, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Prepare for the Impacts of Climate Change 2012 -2020||June 2011|
|City of Virginia Beach 2009 Comprehensive Plan - Policy Document||December 8, 2009|
|City of Alexandria, Virginia Environmental Action Plan 2030||June 23, 2009|
|Resource Name||Resource Category||Date|
|Adapt Virginia (AdaptVA)||Adaptation Websites||2017|
|Sea Level Rise Adaptation Guide - Virginia||Planning|
|Tidewater Rising Resiliency Design Challenge||Planning||January 2016|
|Recommendations to the Secure Commonwealth Panel on the Issue of Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding in Coastal Virginia||Law and Governance||September 5, 2014|
|Virginia's Climate Modeling and Species Vulnerability Assessment: How Climate Data Can Inform Management and Conservation||Assessments||2013|
|Assessing Vulnerability and Risk of Climate Change Effects on Transportation Infrastructure: Hampton Roads Virginia FHWA Pilot||Solutions||2012|
|Virginia Coastal Needs Assessment and Strategies: FY 2011-2015||Assessments||April 2011|