Implementation of Maryland’s Climate Action Plan

Created: 12/19/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020


In 2007, the Governor of Maryland signed an Executive Order that created the Commission on Climate Change, which was tasked to develop a comprehensive Climate Action Plan for the state. In 2008, the final report was released and implementation began. The Department of Natural Resources has been a lead agency in the development and implementation of the Climate Action Plan, particularly in regards to adaptation. Phase I of the adaptation plan focuses on key strategies to reduce Maryland’s vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal storms. Initiatives include reducing shoreline hardening, assisting local governments to develop adaptation strategies, conducting public outreach, and using technology to update maps and land acquisition priorities.  


Maryland has over 3,000 miles of coastline and the majority of the land is experiencing naturally occurring subsidence. The low lying, sinking coastal areas make Maryland acutely vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise. The average rate of sea level rise in Maryland is about one foot per century, or roughly double the global average. Recognizing this problem, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources released the report A Sea Level Rise Response Strategy for the State of Maryland in 2000. This preliminary report reviewed the sea level rise literature and associated research, identified Maryland’s vulnerability, and assessed Maryland’s existing response capabilities.

In 2007, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was selected to chair the Adaptation and Response Working Group and produced Chapter Five of the Climate Action Plan, the Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change: Phase I: Sea-level rise and coastal storms. The chapter details Maryland’s acute vulnerability to rising sea-levels and proposes 19 policies that would enhance the state’s resilience to climate change. In the chapter, each policy is outlined in detail with a subsequent implementation proposal. 

Notable strategies and recommendations include:

  • Incorporate the predicted effects of climate change into current state and local policies and develop and implement long-range planning
  • Develop a comprehensive adaptation plan for vulnerable infrastructure
  • Assess and strengthen building codes to reduce infrastructure damage in the future
  • Reconsider the role of insurance in vulnerable areas and develop a “sea level rise disclosure” statement for coastal properties
  • Research and prepare for changes in human health risks
  • Strategically utilize and restore natural resources to enhance the resilience of the system
  • Provide up to date research on the impacts of climate change to managers
  • Develop and implement performance measures of successful adaptation

The Scientific and Technical and Adaptation and Response Working Group will release sector specific recommendations in December 2010.


Maryland has historically been a progressive leader in planning for the effects of climate change as evidenced by the 2000 report on sea level rise. When the Governor signed the Executive Order creating the Commission on Climate Change, many agencies within Maryland were already incorporating climate change into their work, easing the transition into the Climate Action Plan. 

The Climate Action Plan was funded through the state government and continues to be financed by the legislature. Work completed by the Department of Natural Resources was also funded through the NOAA Coastal Zone Management Act.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Maryland Climate Action Plan requires that departments report annually on progress made towards adaptation. Departments reported on their progress in September 2009. Below is a synthesis of completed projects for the Department of Natural Resources:

  • Passed “living shorelines act” to reduce hardened shorelines
    • Held community meetings to explain policy to land owners
  • Amended critical area programs to extend jurisdictional boundaries, update boundaries based upon current wetland locations, and increase buffers from 100 to 200 ft.
  • Developed “Coast-Smart Communities” initiative, a competitive grant process to assist local governments in planning for the impacts of climate change, pioneered a role-playing simulation so stakeholders develop an understanding of the complexities associated with climate change adaptation
  • Created a Maryland Climate Change Insurance Advisory Committee
  • Utilized estuary research to develop a training and public outreach program

Maryland continues to plan for climate change and is quickly becoming a leader in the nascent field of climate change adaptation. The key to Maryland’s success has been the knowledge base that has been built over the past few decades. Research programs have been targeted to support and build off of one another as new results are returned. Maryland also has dedicated, long-term staff who continually remind leadership of the potential effects of climate change, renewing the motivation to promote climate change adaptation.   


Feifel, K. (2010). Implementation of Maryland's Climate Action Plan [Case study on a project of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contact(s)

Position: DNR Program Manager for Climate Policy and Planning

The Department of Natural Resources leads Maryland in securing a sustainable future for our environment, society, and economy by preserving, protecting, restoring, and enhancing the State’s natural resources.


Scale of Project
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Development (socioeconomic)
Tourism / Recreation
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Habitat extent
Infrastructure damage
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Sea level rise
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Stormwater systems: retrofitting and improvements
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Create or modify shoreline management measures
Develop disaster preparedness plans and policies
Governance and Policy
Develop / implement adaptation plans
Effort Stage
In progress

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