Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

Purpose and Methodology of the Toolkit

To help communities address the challenges of climate resilience and social inequality, the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) partnered with leading experts and practitioners to develop an Equitable Adaptation Toolkit. The toolkit is designed to help local policymakers address these challenges. The toolkit features promising practices and substantive policy solutions for achieving equitable outcomes through city resilience initiatives and that can provide replicable examples for an array of communities and community-based organizations. The toolkit provides a single place where community-based organizations and cities can explore best and emerging practices for centering equity in planning processes and policy options for advancing equity and climate resilience goals. It also provides case study examples of community-driven planning initiatives and legal and policy solutions that have been advanced through community-driven planning. There is no “one size fits all” approach for ensuring equity in community resilience policies and programs. To help decisionmakers and practitioners tailor approaches to their specific jurisdictions, legal contexts, and needs, the toolkit also includes analytic frameworks to help users weigh policy tradeoffs and navigate potential legal challenges.

A screenshot of a zoom call with GCC staff and advisors for the toolkit. There are 25 diverse participants from community-based organizations, non-profits, and other experts.
GCC brought the authors and advisors working on the toolkit together for a virtual roundtable to discuss and inform the toolkit’s development in March 2020.

GCC developed the toolkit through a collaborative process that was informed by an advisory group made up of representatives from community-based organizations, cities, and subject-matter experts in the areas of housing, public health, finance, community engagement, water, and energy; representatives from community-based organizations leading adaptation efforts in their own communities; and members of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN). As a web-based resource, the toolkit will be dynamically updated to keep pace with new developments and remain easily accessible.

About the Toolkit

The toolkit is organized into four major sections: 

(1) Introduction to the Problem and the Need for Equitable Climate Adaptation Solutions;

(2) Procedural Equity: Tools for Planning, Engagement, and Governance;

(3) Equitable Adaptation Policies & Programs: Implementing Equitable Adaptation; and 

(4) Funding Tools: Paying for Equitable Adaptation. 

Each section includes chapters that explore the legal and policy tools that encourage equitable processes and outcomes associated with the referenced subject matter. Each chapter has Considerations and Lessons Learned sections that include the primary takeaways from each example. These findings capture the approaches and tools that other local policymakers and communities may consider when developing or implementing their own equitable adaptation strategies.

The chapters included explore promising practices, and feature case studies, and substantive policy solutions for achieving equitable outcomes in the relevant subject matter areas. Some case studies are in fact resources to guide practitioners in this work. Case studies are meant to be representative of best and emerging practices that present learning opportunities for other communities and local governments looking for local equitable climate adaptation solutions. Not all case studies fully encompass the best-case scenario and no two municipalities or communities are alike. As a result, the toolkit seeks to take the lessons learned from case studies presented and apply them to individual situations. Collectively, these case studies present a suite, although not an exhaustive list, of legal and policy tools that can be used to facilitate equitable adaptation efforts.

Policymakers, practitioners, and community members leading, engaging in, or participating in the work presented in this report informed the case studies in this toolkit. No statements or opinions, however, should be attributed to any individual or organization included in the Acknowledgements section of this report. It is also important to note that the programs and planning processes described in each case study are ongoing and the content included in this toolkit is current as of June 2020.


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