SACRAMENTO — Two new resources from California’s leading environmental justice and equity groups aim to fill critical information gaps for state and local policymakers tasked with making important decisions around building climate resilience. Research from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) shows a path forward for identifying the people and regions most impacted by climate change, while a guidebook from The Greenlining Institute provides a practical guidebook for implementing an equitable approach to building climate resilience.
“Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters,” presents findings and recommendations from APEN researchers, who conducted a careful review of dozens of existing climate threat assessment frameworks. The report finds that while some frameworks show promise in integrating the broad range of social, health, and environmental factors that contribute to climate vulnerability, they are limited by the data’s accessibility to be put to meaningful use by relevant agencies.
“Climate change impacts everyone, but the experience can feel dramatically different depending on who you are and where you live,” said Amee Raval, APEN’s Senior Policy Researcher and principal author of the study. “State and local leaders need an interactive mapping tool that layers all the disparate factors that contribute to climate impacts, so that they can see the full picture of the places and people that face the biggest threats and prioritize their decision-making accordingly.”
Complementing APEN’s research is The Greenlining Institute’s “Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook.” The guidebook serves as an instruction manual on how to make equity real in California’s climate policies, so that resources are directed to those who face the most serious impacts yet have the fewest resources to adapt.
“More people are recognizing that the climate crisis impacts some communities more severely than others, and low-income communities of color are at the top of the list,” said Sona Mohnot, Greenlining Institute Senior Policy Analyst. “But good intentions alone won’t address these injustices. Our guidebook gives policymakers concrete tools to make equity real as we work to cope with climate change.”
Greenlining’s guidebook makes practical recommendations on how to embed equity into climate adaptation policies from the start, from setting goals through implementation and evaluation. It also includes tangible examples from existing policies and grant programs that illustrate what the recommendations would look like in practice, providing an equity report card on recent California climate policy.
“Policymakers need to recognize that communities are the best experts on their own needs,” Mohnot said. “That means officials need to not just hear community voices; they need to give them real power at every stage, from planning to implementation.”
Recent events in California point to how climate change can act as a threat multiplier that magnifies the enormous differences in zip codes, income, race, immigration status, and other indicators that impact an individual’s ability to cope and recover from climate disasters. In the aftermath of the Thomas Fire, undocumented farmworkers in Oxnard didn’t have paid leave and continued to work in the fields amid dangerous air pollution levels without protective masks.
Despite the current shortcomings in building California’s climate resilience, researchers point to promising signs that the recommended climate threat assessment framework is well within reach. “We already have the building blocks we need to build a user-friendly, comprehensive mapping tool,” said Raval. “Many of the climate vulnerability indicators are already being used across several platforms that just need to be brought under one actionable format.”
“Community-led policy and planning is core to our vision for healthy, thriving, and resilient communities for all,” says Louise Bedsworth of the California Strategic Growth Council, who served on the Advisory Committee for the Making Equity Real guidebook. “Resources like these can help inform program development to achieve resilience outcomes.”
The full reports are accessible online:
- “Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters” (Asian Pacific Environmental Network)
- “Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook” (The Greenlining Institute)