Workshop on Opportunities for Equitable Climate Adaptation

April 7, 2016

The Georgetown Climate Center, in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network, brought together city officials, environmental justice leaders, and state and federal partners for a two day workshop on equitable climate adaptation, with a focus on city-level action.

Participants worked together to identify the root causes of disproportionate climate-related risks for communities on the frontlines of climate change impacts. Workshop participants were challenged to reflect on their own planning processes and strategize ways that city and environmental justice leaders can take concrete steps to address unequal risks, increase diversity, community participation and leadership in adaptation planning.  Participants also discussed strategies for ensuring that adaptation efforts are benefiting and not negatively affecting those most at risk of impacts.

In addition to planning, workshop participants discussed adaptation policies and projects that could help cities achieve social justice, economic development, and climate adaptation goals, including strategies for adaptively reusing vacant and blighted lands, for using local hiring policies to link resilience investments with economic development, for ensuring that resilience investments do not lead to displacement, and for increasing social cohesion. The workshop also helped the Georgetown Climate Center, city officials, and environmental justice partners identify transferrable lessons that will be featured in an upcoming equity portal on our Adaptation Clearinghouse.

Download a summary report from this workshop that highlights key lessons from the conference.



Goals & Objectives: The goal of this workshop is to identify ways that cities can ensure equitable preparedness and adaptation and to develop resources (portals and models) that are accessible and valuable to cities and community-based organizations.  The objectives of this workshop are to:

  • Identify factors that contribute to communities facing disproportionate risks of climate change impacts.
  • Identify examples of equitable climate preparedness planning and resources that provide guidance.
  • Help cities engage with diverse stakeholders and transition to a community-driven planning approach.
  • Identify gaps in understanding of equitable adaptation planning and policy.
  • Identify and discuss options to reduce disproportionate burdens from climate change impacts and ensure that planning and policies adopted in response to climate change do not exacerbate or create inequities; and help participants replicate and scale equitable adaptation policies.
  • Inform development of an online equity portal within GCC’s Adaptation Clearinghouse to (1) help practitioners identify good examples and resources, and (2) inform research and other activities of GCC and other organizations to continue to help cities advance their work on these issues.

Day 1 - April 6, 2016

Session 1: Climate change and disproportionate impacts

  • Short-presentation by equity and social justice partners.
  • Structural racism and bias in government that can lead to disproportionate risks and vulnerability
  • Group discussion – disproportionate impacts and sources of community resilience

Session 2: Equitable adaptation planning and community engagement

  • Short-presentation by cities and social justice partners.
  • Strategies and community engagement processes to support equitable adaptation. 
  • Break-out discussions – equitable planning and meaningful community engagement

Session 3: Lunchtime panel discussion: Equitable adaptation planning by environmental justice partners

Session 4: Opportunities for cities to implement equitable adaptation policies

  • GCC introduction to the range of policies that cities are implementing or considering
  • Cities present adaptation policies they are implementing, how those policies are addressing the root causes of disproportionate climate vulnerability and ensure that the benefits and burdens of the actions are equitably shared, and the successes and obstacles they have encountered
  • Break-out discussions – equitable adaptation policies
    • Promoting economic development through resilience (e.g., local hire, training programs, etc.)
    • Avoiding displacement and ensuring affordable, resilient housing (e.g., inclusionary zoning, resilient housing construction, anti-displacement, etc.)
    • Using open space to promote equity & adaptation (e.g., vacant land reuse, green infrastructure, etc.)
    • Building social resilience (e.g., drawing on local knowledge, neighborhood plans, preparing community members to be first responders, etc.)

Session 5: Reflections, community of practice, and equity portal

  • Report out – facilitators from break-out discussion report back key lessons from break-out sessions
  • Short-presentation – GCC discusses equitable adaptation resources and the climate adaptation portal
  • Group discussion – tools and resources to help communities integrate equity in adaptation planning and policies

Day 2 - April 7, 2016

Session 1: Morning Reflection

  • What did we hear yesterday and what resonates?
  • What (and who) did we miss?
  • What topics/content was missing from the conversation?

Session 2: Equitable Climate Preparedness Planning Model Development and Design

  • Presentation: existing climate preparedness models
  • Discuss what an equitable climate preparedness planning model is:
    • What are existing models that might be valuable to review?
    • What should it include?
    • How can we design it to maximize effectiveness and usefulness?
    • What format should it be if it is an online tool or document?

Session 3: Evaluation & Pilot Testing

  • Evaluation Framework discussion
  • Case study template – discuss information needs while balancing time and effort

Session 4: Lunch & Pilot Project Sharing

  • Mini-presentations from cities implementing pilots & group brainstorm on each (5 x 10 mins each)

Session 5: Next Steps

  • Project schedule
  • Involvement of NGO partners
  • Ways to continue collaboration and information-sharing throughout the process

Participant List:

  • Denise Fairchild, President & CEO, Emerald Cities Collaborative
  • Felipe Floresca, Vice President, Policy and Government Affairs, Emerald Cities Collaborative
  • Aurash Khawarzad, Policy Advocacy Coordinator, WE ACT for Enviornmental Justice
  • Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, NAACP
  • Kimberly Knott Hill, Owner, Future Insight Consulting
  • Colette Pichon-Battle, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
  • Jared Genova, 100 Resilient Cities Fellow, City of New Orleans
  • Tracy Morgenstern, Strategic Advisor, Office of Sustainability, City of Seattle
  • Kristin Baja, Climate and Resilience Planner and Floodplain Manager, City of Baltimore
  • Matthew Gray, Director, Mayor's Office of Sustainability, City of Cleveland
  • Celia VanDerLoop, Environmental Project Manager, City and County of Denver
  • Daniel Guilbeault, Chief, Sustainability & Equity Branch, DC Department of Energy and Environment Washington, DC
  • Ronda Chapman, Community Engagement & Equity Advisor, DC Department of Energy and Environment, Washington, DC
  • Stewart Dutfield, Project Lead – Resilience, City of Toronto
  • Eloisa Portillo-Morales, Sustainability Planning Manager, City of San Antonio
  • Latifah Griffin, Director of City Planning, City of Chester
  • Leah Bamberger, Director of Sustainability, City of Providence
  • Mia Goldwasser, Climate Preparedness Program Manager, City of Boston
  • Rebecca Kiernan, Senior Resilience Coordinator, City of Pittsburgh
  • Michele Moore, Senior Advisor for VP for Disaster Recovery, New York City Housing Authority
  • Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Partnerships Advisor, Urban Sustainability Directors Network
  • Alberto Rodriquez, Environmental and Community Health Programs Manager, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition
  • Miranda Peterson, Research Assistance, Center for American Progress
  • Heidi Schillinger, Social Entrepreneur, Equity Matters
  • Stuart Clarke, Executive Director, Town Creek Foundation
  • Beth Harber, Senior Program Officer, Abell Foundation
  • Lynn Heller, Vice President, Abell Foundation
  • Sarika Tandon, Program Director, Center for Whole Communities
  • Jalonne White Newsome, Senior Program Officer, Environmental Program, Kresge Foundation
  • Eric Yurkovich, Senior Associate, Raimi & Associates
  • Beth Altshuler, Senior Associate, Raimi & Associates
  • Alyssa Edwards, EPA Office of Environmental Justice
  • Sunaree Marshall, Senior Advisor Office of Economic Resileince, HUD
  • Erin Shew, Climate Preparedness Fellow, White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • Art von Lehe, Program Specialist, Office of Policy & Program Analysis, FEMA
  • Paul Schramm, Health Scientist, Climate and Health Program, CDC
  • Carey Whitehead, Deputy Associate Director for Climate Equity, White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • The Georgetown Climate Center Team facilitating this event includes:  Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director; Kate Zyla, Deputy Director; Jessica Grannis, Adaptation Program Manager; Melissa Deas, Institute Associate; and Sara Hoverter, Senior Fellow and Adjunct Professor, and Jamie DeWeese, Climate Policy Fellow, for Harrison Institute for Public Law at Georgetown University Law Center.