California is a leader in climate policy and has modeled an unprecedented statewide effort to fight climate change. However, climate change impacts do not affect all communities in the same way. Frontline communities including low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous peoples and tribal nations, and immigrant communities suffer first and worst from climate disasters. This is due to decades of underinvestment and unjust systems that have left these communities with disproportionately high costs for energy, transportation and basic necessities, limited access to public services, high levels of poverty and pollution, and outdated and weak critical infrastructure.

Climate change exacerbates these injustices that frontline communities face, making climate adaptation and community resilience essential priorities. Strategies to tackle climate change must prioritize the most impacted and least resourced communities. California must develop programs and policies that truly center social equity in climate adaptation efforts and uplift frontline communities so that they do not simply “bounce back” to the unjust status quo after climate disasters strike but are able to “bounce forward” as healthy, resilient and sustainable communities.


To prioritize the climate adaptation and community resilience needs of frontline communities and address the historical neglect they have experienced, California must move beyond embracing equity to making it real. This requires centering community needs and building social equity into the very fabric of policies and grant programs that focus on climate adaptation and resilience. To get there, this Guidebook offers policymakers a blueprint on how to operationalize equity in policies and grant programs.


  1. Embed Equity in the Mission, Vision, & Values: Policies and grant programs should explicitly state a commitment to equity and specifically identify the vulnerable populations they seek to benefit. The effort must aim to create comprehensive climate strategies for communities that not only build the resilience of physical environments but address other health and economic injustices that climate impacts exacerbate.
  2. Build Equity into the Process: Processes should deeply engage community members so as to learn about their priorities, needs and challenges to adapting to climate impacts. The information gathered should inform the development and implementation of the policy or grant program.
  3. Ensure Equity Outcomes: The implementation of the policy or grant program must lead to equity outcomes that respond to community needs, reduce climate vulnerabilities, and increase community resilience. Outcomes can include improved public health and safety, workforce and economic development, and more.
  4. Measure & Analyze for Equity: Policies and grant programs should regularly evaluate their equity successes and challenges to improve the effort going forward.

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs:

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs – A Guidebook.  The Guidebook provides specific recommendations on how to operationalize social equity in the goals, process, implementation and analysis of policies and grant programs focused on climate adaptation. The report includes examples from existing policies and grant programs to illustrate what the recommendations look like in practice. The Guidebook is intended for policymakers who develop policies (bills, executive orders, local measures) and agencies that develop grant programs. Communities and advocates may also use this Guidebook as a tool to assess how social equity shows up in climate adaptation and resilience proposals.

Related Research from APEN:

Greenlining released this report jointly with a report from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, “Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters.” APEN’s work shows a path forward for identifying the people and regions most impacted by climate change. Taken together, the two reports can guide policymakers in identifying vulnerable communities and providing them the climate adaptation resources they need.