Developing an Equitable Adaptation Toolkit

April 1, 2019

About the Challenge: Equity and Climate Impacts

Interlinked circles connect to form one big circle around the words "Frontline Communities." Each smaller circle contains one term: poverty, extreme storms, race, flooding, health, heat waves, immigrants, drought, povertyTwo of the biggest challenges facing the United States are the social inequalities that put the health and well-being of our poorest populations at risk, and climate change. The effects of climate change—including rising temperatures in urban areas, more polluted air, and increased extreme storms and stormwater—will disproportionately affect overburdened and low-income people and communities who are already facing significant economic and social challenges. A community’s success or failure in preparing for the impacts of climate change will be measured by how it is able to address the needs of those on the frontlines of impacts and those already suffering from a range of challenges including lack of economic opportunity, racism, and pollution.

For communities to be truly resilient to climate risks, they must have the resources to prepare for the coming changes, as well as the ability to withstand impacts and recover quickly after an event. Building equity into climate resilience planning involves addressing the disproportionate impacts that affect frontline communities and reversing the trends that make it harder for communities of color and low-income Americans to thrive. In practice, this involves both inclusive processes that give frontline communities opportunities to shape decision making, and a deep investment in the programs and policies that frontline communities ask for and need. Importantly, these programs and policies should address not only climate-risks, but also pervasive stressors such as lack of educational and economic opportunity and threats from displacement and gentrification.

To help communities address challenges of climate resilience and social inequality, the Georgetown Climate Center is partnering with leading experts to develop an Equitable Adaptation Toolkit.

GCC’s Equitable Adaptation Toolkit will help local policymakers address these challenges and develop viable strategies for addressing climate resilience and social inequality. The Toolkit will feature best practices and substantive policy solutions for achieving equitable outcomes through city resilience initiatives to provide replicable examples for a broader array of communities and community-based organizations. The Toolkit will provide a single place where community-based organizations and cities can explore policy options and best practices for linking equity and resilience. It will also provide case study examples of community-driven planning initiatives, legal and policy solutions that have been advanced through community-driven planning, and best practice examples of implementation and expected outcomes. While there is no “one size fits all” approach to building equitable community resilience, GCC’s toolkit will provide analytical frameworks to help decisionmakers and advocates tailor approaches to their specific jurisdictions, legal contexts, and needs.

As a web-based resource, the Toolkit can be dynamically updated to keep pace with new developments and remain easily accessible.

The Toolkit will be modeled after GCC’s online Green Infrastructure Toolkit and will be a featured resource on GCC's online database, and networking site the Adaptation Clearinghouse. GCC aims to launch this new tool in Fall 2020.

GCC is committed to developing the Toolkit through a collaborative process with community-based organizations and other essential stakeholders.

Based on early-stage expert and stakeholder input, the tentative outline organizes the Toolkit into three major sections: (1) Introduction to the Problem and the Need for Equitable Climate Adaptation Solutions (2) Analysis of Tools for Implementation of Equitable Adaptation and (3) Funding Options for Supporting Equitable Adaptation. The tools included will explore best practices and substantive policy solutions for achieving equitable outcomes, and may include chapters on the following topics: community-driven engagement processes; governance processes (e.g., budgeting, data, metrics, monitoring tools), economic resilience; resilient affordable housing and anti-displacement; adaptive reuse of vacant lands; resilient energy systems; resilient water systems; disaster response and recovery; health and nutrition; and social resilience.

Get involved

For more information about this work or to participate in an advisory group to inform the development of this Toolkit, please contact Tiffany Ganthier (; (202) 662-9462).


Photo credits: Georgetown Climate Center (middle left); Bill Petros, Georgetown University Law Center (bottom right).