Giving Compass' Take:

• Joseph W. Kane explains how we can address the ongoing needs of local climate resilience and economic opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• What role can you play can in supporting local climate resilience efforts? 

• Learn about using land to meaningfully address climate change

Summer usually marks a time of climate uncertainty, from hurricanes along the coasts to flooding in the Midwest to droughts seemingly everywhere. Once again, climate scientists are predicting an onslaught of major storms over the next few months. If last summer was any indication, states and localities remain unprepared to plan and pay for the damage, let alone the effects of daily rainfall.

And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer will be unlike any other. The virus has whipped up an economic storm of its own, leaving millions of businesses closed and workers jobless. Declines in spending and income are hitting individuals hard, while losses in sales and income tax revenue are also wreaking havoc on local and state budgets. Cities and states could experience budget deficits up to $900 billion through 2021, resulting in additional job cuts, service reductions, and project delays.

Our mounting climate and economic impacts are leading to a perfect storm, where more proactive investment in resilience is crucial to safeguard our future—and to help places and people adapt and succeed in the face of tremendous change.

We need to build back better, as many leaders in the U.S. and around the world have recently highlighted. Rising sea levels, greenhouse gases, and other global climate pressures continue to attract broader attention. But we also can’t overlook images of flooded towns in Michigan or wildfires in Arizona. National policies and investments to counter larger climate challenges matter, but so do local actions. While localities cannot single-handedly control or solve all these challenges, they are constantly exploring ways to mitigate what happens to them. And as we are seeing during the uncertain COVID-19 era, local responses matter to what we all experience every day.

Now is the moment to create a resilient platform for local growth, one that reduces uncertainty, expands economic opportunity, and ultimately adapts to an extreme climate through improvements to transportation, water, energy, and telecommunications systems. Building back better, though, is not just about physical upgrades (seawalls, permeable streets, rain gardens, etc.) that improve the performance and reliability of our built environment. It is about strengthening our local levers for action, which includes advancing policies and plans that address climate impacts on all types of households, boosting local fiscal capacity to drive new investments, and equipping workers with the skills and training to manage a cleaner, safer environment.

This brief explores the need for such a resilient platform for growth by focusing on the role of local policymakers and practitioners to drive lasting infrastructure solutions that can benefit more places and people. It first defines climate resilience and the urgency for action, before examining how places—including cities, metropolitan areas, and other localities—must expand their planning efforts and fiscal capacities to accelerate resilient infrastructure improvements. It concludes by highlighting how residents and workers must play a central part in these local efforts.

Read the full article about local climate resilience and economic opportunity by Joseph W. Kane at Brookings.