City Action on Resilience


  • Cities often face multiple risks from climate change, and must make planning decisions despite uncertainty in climate projections.
  • Climate-related severe weather events, as well as chronic impacts like tidal flooding, are often costly for cities and affect communities and local businesses.
  • As climate impacts become more frequent and severe, cities will experience increasing impacts on their budgets and ability to attract new and protect existing businesses and residents.
  • Resilience planning is highly localized, and no two towns will have identical resilience strategies. Some communities develop stand-alone climate resilience plans while others incorporate climate resilience into broader city plans.
  • Planning processes intending to prepare communities for the future are most effective when they are community-driven and address the needs of historically marginalized groups.

Communities are addressing a growing range of challenges arising from chronic climate impacts like sea-level rise or extreme weather conditions exacerbated by climate change, like flooding or drought.

These physical impacts are also affecting cities’ economies and their ability to be competitive in a changing climate, as we explore in our report The Resilience Factor: A Competitive Edge for Climate-Ready Cities. For example, cities are facing real, but largely unquantified financial impacts that drain local budgets and put municipal credit ratings at risk. Climate impacts can also hinder cities’ ability to attract new businesses by damaging private-sector assets and real estate, and by disrupting supply chains, utility systems, and transportation networks. Further, city competitiveness also relies on offering a high quality of life for all residents, but climate change is threatening this too, especially for historically marginalized communities.

Fortunately, cities have tools to address the physical and economic risks of climate change and actually enhance their competitive edge. These include, for example: upgrading infrastructure to ensure it can withstand extreme weather, changing transit routes, updating building codes, improving neighborhood cohesion, engaging in resilience planning across city departments, economic agencies, communities, and the private sector, and prioritizing investments in vulnerable and marginalized communities.

To be effective, local resilience efforts must build the capacity of the entire community – including individual residents, neighborhoods, businesses, city planners and first responders – to cope with both chronic stresses like increasing temperatures and acute shocks like extreme weather events. Resilience is not new for most cities; it is an ongoing effort to align city functions and resources in ways that benefit residents, businesses, and the environment today and in the future.

Cities often face multiple risks from climate change, and must make planning decisions despite uncertainty in climate projections.


Cities across the United States have begun to plan for climate change by taking steps to improve resilience. Cities have developed resilience plans, like the Greater Miami area’s Resilient305 strategy, while others have inserted resilience planning into master plans (e.g. Keene, New Hampshire) and hazard mitigation plans (e.g. San Diego County, CA and Providence, RI). New Orleans developed a resilience strategy that includes new design standards for public works, an updated zoning ordinance, and resilience outcomes embedded within the city’s budgeting process.

Businesses similarly seek to build the capacity of their facilities, operations and supply and distribution chains to withstand long-term and short-term climate impacts. City governments and businesses can work together to strengthen climate resilience and protect their citizens, customers and employees.

C2ES facilitates business and community collaboration on climate resilience planning because it helps state and local officials better tailor their resilience efforts and promotes important synergies in resilience planning.