Developing GCC's Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit (Now Available)

July 29, 2020


The Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit is now available. Access the toolkit here.

The effects of climate change disproportionately affect overburdened and low-income people and communities of color, who already face significant economic and social challenges. The cumulative impacts of pollution, racism, and political and economic disenfranchisement make it difficult for these communities to withstand and recover from extreme heat, flooding, and other climate impacts.

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 individuals to thrive. In practice, this involves both inclusive processes that give frontline communities opportunities to shape decisionmaking, 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 partnered with leading experts to develop an Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit.

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, povertyGCC’s Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit was developed to help local policymakers and community-based organizations address these challenges and develop viable strategies for building climate resilience and social equity. The toolkit includes best emerging practices, legal and policy tools, and case studies centered on equitable adaptation solutions to help users to explore solutions linking equity and resilience. While there is no “one size fits all” approach to building equitable community resilience, GCC’s toolkit provides analytical frameworks to help decisionmakers and advocates tailor approaches to their specific jurisdictions, legal contexts, and needs.

The toolkit covers a broad range of subjects to help guide community-driven planning processes and implementation, including:

  • Facilitating procedural and substantive equity, including community-driven engagement and government procedural processes;
  • Economic resilience, affordable housing, and anti-displacement;
  • Resilient energy, water, and natural systems;
  • Disaster preparedness, response, and recovery;
  • Public health; and
  • Funding and financing approaches.

The toolkit is hosted on the Georgetown Climate Center website with case studies linked to GCC's Adaptation Clearinghouse. Its online format allows the toolkit to be dynamically updated to keep pace with new developments and remain easily accessible.

GCC developed the toolkit through a collaborative process with community-based organizations and other essential partners.

GCC co-created the Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit with an expert advisory panel, integrating the insights and expertise of a network of local, state, and federal adaptation practitioners; community-based organization leaders; and other partners. On March 19, 2020, GCC brought the authors and advisors working on the Equitable Adaptation Toolkit together for a virtual roundtable to discuss and inform the toolkit’s development. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the planned in-person convening was adapted into a day-long video conference. Participants included community leaders; local, state, and federal adaptation practitioners; GCC staff; Georgetown Law faculty and students; and other experts. Discussions included considerations of the challenges and opportunities state and local governments encounter when taking an equity-focused approach to planning and engagement, public health, economic resilience, resilient affordable housing, and financing mechanisms, as well as other topics. Read more about the convening here.

On July 29, 2020, the Georgetown Climate Center hosted a launch webinar releasing the Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit, drawing over 350 participants. The webinar featured the toolkit's authors and advisors, including Jalonne White-Newsome (Kresge Foundation), Mayra Cruz (Catalyst Miami), Melissa Deas (D.C. Dept. of Energy & Environment), and the Georgetown Climate Center team.

GCC would like to thank the Kresge Foundation and the other generous funders who support GCC's work for making this project possible.


For more information about this work, please contact Tiffany Ganthier (


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