Equity in Resilience Building for Climate Adaptation Planning

January 26, 2015 / By Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program

Last month, Pope Francis announced that in 2015 he will be releasing an ‘Encyclical” on climate change, which provides instructions on how people should take action.   Last week, the news came that, according to NASA, 2014 was the hottest year on record as scientists affirm that each decade global temperatures increase in tandem with the increase in emissions of greenhouse gases. On Tuesday, during the State of the Union, President Obama declared that climate change is the biggest challenge to future generations. Yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Pharrell Williams and AL Gore announced a second round of Live Earth Concerts to occur on all 7 continents this year to raise awareness on climate change.

The world is beginning to acknowledge the urgent action we must take on climate change.

Over the years we’ve seen increase in heat waves, droughts, extreme weather, sea levels, and, though we are all impacted, it is the most vulnerable communities and countries who are bearing the brunt of the effects. While we work to stem the tide of climate change, we must adapt to the clear and present danger of climate change by building individual and community resilience.

What constitutes strengthening resilience through equitable adaptation planning? How do we assess the context comprehensively so that effective methods are designed? To be able to declare that community resilience has been achieved, we must develop systems that address the needs and provide protection for those most vulnerable and marginalized.

What about the elderly woman who has a physical disability, has no private vehicle, lives in a flood plain, and has no homeowner’s insurance? What infrastructure and other improvements are we implementing that will effectively strengthen her resilience to the next disaster?   What about the African American child with asthma who lives next to a coal plant?  What will we do to strengthen his resilience as he faces the next heat wave which concentrates pollution, activates his asthma, and jeopardizes his life?  How do we make sure he has access for emergency health needs while working on the political context that allows 68% of African Americans to be situated near these facilities?

As a conversation-starter for deepening work around incorporating intersectionality in equitable adaptation planning, we have developed a sample list of indicators/measures of vulnerability and resilience in terms of infrastructure, community/population characteristics, systems, policies, programs/services, protocols, and governance/decision making. The indicators span the impacts of climate change including shifts in agricultural yields, sea level rise, and extreme weather.

The aim is for city planners, community organizations, elected officials, and others to consider these equity based indicators of resilience as they design adaptation plans.

Read the report here

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