The Climate Resilience-Economy Nexus: Advancing Common Goals
Communities across the United States are experiencing increasingly severe and frequent floods, wildfires, extreme heat, and other hazards due to climate change. These hazards are impacting local economies by damaging critical infrastructure and commercial districts, disrupting business operations, shrinking municipal budgets, threatening worker safety, and reducing housing supply and affordability, among other impacts.
Economic development strategies can help address these risks and create new economic opportunities, but to be effective over the long-term, they need to plan for a changing climate. Similarly, incorporating economic development considerations into climate resilience-focused efforts can unlock new benefits of resilience and meet emerging needs for it. However, prior C2ES research found that integrated planning between these two disciplines at the local and regional levels is uncommon.
This report seeks to address this gap by identifying areas where economic development and climate resilience can achieve common goals and by exploring on-the-ground projects where innovative actions at this nexus are already being taken. Common goals that advance both climate resilience and economic development include: creating climate resilient development and infrastructure projects, maximizing economic benefits in climate resilience initiatives, developing the climate-ready workforce, focusing climate resilience and economic development efforts on low-income communities and communities of color, and recruiting and developing a business community that offers climate resilience solutions, among others.
A number of tools commonly used in both economic development and climate resilience, such as infrastructure investments, local policies, and public-private partnerships, can be used to work toward these outcomes. We explore these goals and strategies through case studies of seven cities around the United States (Figure ES-1) that are advancing this collaborative approach, serving as models for other communities experiencing similar climate impacts and risks.
We spotlight two of these projects that are centering equity in broader resilience and economic development efforts. These case studies are summarized below:
- Resilient Urban Revitalization - Baltimore, Maryland
- Comprehensive Flood Risk Management - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Business-Driven Climate Resilience Action - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
- Workforce Development for Climate Resilience Solutions - Sonoma County, California
- Accelerating the Climate Resilience Services and Technologies Industry - Norfolk, Virginia
- Spotlight on Equity: Building Thriving, Resilient Communities for All - Ithaca, New York; North Charleston, South Carolina
Finally, we provide recommendations to governments and the private sector to better support this type of action. These recommendations include:
- The federal government should amend existing or create new funding and technical support resources that incentivize or directly support interdisciplinary collaboration on climate risk and economic challenges. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants—Disaster Recovery program provides flexible funding that can be used in post-disaster contexts and would be well-suited to support ongoing collaboration and action across economic development and climate resilience.
- The federal government should support the integration of economic development and climate resilience in planning efforts at the local and regional level. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), specifically, should amend its guidance for Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) to require more robust analysis of physical climate risks and how resilience opportunities can support local and regional economic growth. Though EDA currently requires regions to consider economic resilience in their CEDS, they do not specifically call for them to outline ways in which they will support climate risk mitigation. Doing so could help foster collaboration between economic development and climate resilience at the regional level.
- Federal agencies should build on recent actions to increase the availability and usability of climate information for local decision makers by creating more guidance and analysis tools that they can use to assess local economic risks and opportunities related to climate change. Having a better understanding of the costs of inaction and benefits of resilience-building can help achieve critical buy-in from local stakeholders and accelerate actions to increase resilience. These resources could be housed within the Climate Resilience Toolkit, maintained by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
Local and Regional Policy:
- Local governments and regional organizations should facilitate opportunities for convening and collaboration between climate resilience and economic development stakeholders, creating a space for learning about the linkages between climate resilience and economic development and for connections to be made. Communities of practice, for example, can foster collaboration between these two areas.
- Local governments should lead with equity considerations when developing policy solutions and investment decisions. Doing so can make economic development and climate resilience solutions more robust and effective, positioning communities to thrive despite the changing climate. Tactics such as community visioning processes can help local leaders understand what communities want and need out of economic development and what they see as their most pressing climate risks.
- Local and state governments should create climate resilience-focused positions, like Chief Resilience Officers, to foster innovative approaches to resilience that capitalize on economic opportunities. These positions can be supported by federal and state grants, which should be geared toward communities with fewer resources.
Private Sector Leadership and Collaboration:
- Private sector stakeholders should engage in local climate and economic development planning efforts and advocate for increased climate resilience to help local leaders build the business case for climate resilience action.
- The private sector should also collaborate with local entities, like non-profit organizations and community colleges, to develop and implement projects that support both economic development and climate resilience. These efforts could include programs that develop the future workforce for climate resilience solutions, creating a pipeline that can support current and future business offerings.