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New Resources Help Local Governments Reduce Climate Impacts, Build Resilient Communities


February 17, 2022  by  Lisa Pool
Category:  Climate Change MRSC News and Updates

New Resources Help Local Governments Reduce Climate Impacts, Build Resilient Communities

Last summer, MRSC launched its Local Climate Response Project with the goal of providing climate-related webinars, blogs, and topic pages to assist local governments in their climate planning efforts.

The first topic page, which features a map and a compilation of climate-related documents from throughout the state, was published in January. We’ve recently published five new pages covering funding and general resources, equity and engagement, climate action plans (CAPs), greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies, and climate adaptation and resiliency. A landing page helps you navigate all of MRSC’s climate-related resources. The hundreds of resources featured on these pages serve as a unique online clearinghouse that any local government staff or elected official can access to reduce climate impacts and build more prepared and resilient communities.

This blog reviews each page and a few of the resources they include.

Climate Action Funding and General Resources

Since launching the Local Climate Response Project, we received feedback from local governments that a lack of funding and technical resources often challenged their climate action planning efforts. This page includes general climate change funding and technical resources from Washington State and beyond.

The Funding Opportunities section includes state grants and loans, such as the Department of Commerce’s Energy Grants and Loans for projects like energy retrofits for public buildings or Growth Management Grants that provide assistance for housing action plans (including missing middle housing) and transit-oriented development. It also includes national funding programs, like those found in the  U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

The Technical Resources section offers sample technical resources, research institutes, and peer networks. Examples are GEOS Institute's Climate Ready Communities Program, which helps small to medium-sized communities create climate resilience plans and includes a free guide. Another resource is the American Planning Association’s Climate Change Policy Guide, which includes policies that can be used to help formulate position statements, legislative recommendations, and other actions. 

Climate Equity and Engagement

The impacts of climate-related disasters will fall more heavily on certain populations. This page discusses disproportionate impacts to frontline communities (those that experience the first and worst climate impacts) and inclusive engagement processes. Examples include: 

This page also links to the Washington State Department of Health’s Environmental Health Disparities Map, an interactive tool that shows how U.S. census tracts across the state rank for environmental-health hazards (e.g., diesel emissions, potential lead exposure, proximity to toxic waste). The tool overlays this information with socioeconomic data to create maps that reveal where people are most and least at-risk for health issues. It also provides insights into public investments that can buffer environmental health impacts.

Climate Action Plans

Several Washington local governments have already or are planning to adopt CAPs that target GHG emissions reduction goals. This page supports these efforts by including examples of CAPs, GHG inventories and targets, and resources to assist local governments in developing CAPs. Sample CAPs include:

Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Strategies

This page focuses on GHG reduction strategies from across sectors, including municipal operations, buildings, smart growth (land use and transportation planning), urban forestry, and waste. Since strategies vary depending on local priorities and needs, some may seem more relevant to your jurisdiction than others. As we continue to hear about how Washington communities are curbing GHG emissions, we will add these strategies.

Some existing strategies per sector include:

  • Under Buildings, the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan, which has three main goals related to buildings and energy: 1) encourage efficient, renewable energy buildings that meet Washington Clean Buildings Act Energy Use Intensity targets; 2) promote local production and sourcing of renewable energy; and 3) engage community in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Under Smart Growth, the Kent Comprehensive Plan, which includes Goal LU-5 to support transportation options and link land use and transportation planning.
  • Under Urban Forestry, the Redmond Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, which includes these natural systems strategies to reduce GHGs: protect and enhance equitably accessible native habitats and open space, support local agriculture, enhance resilience of natural areas and systems to climate change, expand green infrastructure and associated services, and increase citywide tree canopy.

Climate Impact Preparedness, Adaptation, and Resilience

This page is focused on helping local governments prepare for, adapt to, and become more resilient to climate impacts. It includes vulnerability and risk assessments, adaptation plans, and other resources. Examples include:

  • The Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, which develops scientific data, guidance, and tools to help local governments manage climate risks, such as the Northwest Climate Trends tool that allows users to visualize monthly, seasonal, or annual trends like temperature and precipitation.
  • Everett’s Hazard Inventory and Vulnerability Analysis, which identifies not only known hazards, such as landslides and flooding, but also climate-change-related secondary hazards, such as heat waves. It also includes neighborhood-based risk profiles.
  • Olympia’s Sea Level Rise Response Plan, which addresses the most pressing climate impact threat to the city (especially the downtown area that is largely built on fill and has a history of flood damage).

Conclusion

We hope these new topic pages are a useful resource to local governments in their climate action planning efforts. We will continue to add resources and provide useful and timely information on this important topic. If you have feedback, suggestions for additional resources, or any questions about these newly published pages, please contact us at climateresources@mrsc.org.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Lisa Pool

Lisa Pool joined MRSC in June 2021. Most recently, she served as a senior planner for Bellingham. In this role, she primarily focused on long-range planning projects, including the city’s comprehensive plan and new housing-related regulations. Prior to moving to Bellingham, she worked on regional sustainability and transportation issues for a metropolitan planning organization and conducted development review for cities and counties in the Midwest.

Lisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in environmental policy and a Master of Urban Planning, both from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She has been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners since 2009.

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