As climate change continues to intensify—raising the urgency to address mounting risks and escalating costs—the public and private response remains slow and uneven. Steps toward more renewable energy are gradually taking hold, but a significant and immediate challenge continues to surround the country’s urban built environment: an increasingly vulnerable network of transportation, water, and private real estate assets. From roads and sewers to homes and commercial buildings, the location and design of current physical systems keep adding more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, overconsuming natural resources, and exposing people to greater dangers.

Many policymakers and practitioners across the country are taking steps to boost their “urban resilience”—the capacity of the built environment to be more flexible and responsive to climate impacts. They are testing new designs and technologies—from seawalls to rain gardens to permeable streets—to reduce risks, save money, create jobs, and benefit households and businesses. At the same time, private investors have demonstrated increased interest (and impact) in launching more climate investments nationally. But with so many climate needs to address and so little coordination, leaders are still struggling to realize the full potential of these investments across the built environment; nearly $30.2 trillion in transportation, water, and real estate assets could be reconfigured for a more resilient future.

Public and private sector leaders must rethink how we invest, not simply how much to invest. To achieve the scale of investment the country needs, it’s time to better tap the power of financial markets.

The U.S. needs a new climate finance framework to incentivize more climate investment, reduce risks in more places, and promote benefits for more people. Financial markets represent one of the most powerful ways to drive public and private action on climate resilience, but current public policies do not do a good job of steering capital to the most resilient uses. Regulations and public investment programs can better matchmake between private investors sitting on the financial resources and infrastructure owners and operators who have a demonstrated need. A refined framework should help identify, measure, and accelerate climate-conscious investments across the entire built environment.

Read the full article about climate finance by Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer at Brookings.