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State Action on Resilience

At-a-glance

  • A majority of U.S. states have no formal climate resilience or adaptation plan, either finalized or in development.
  • State-level resilience planning can focus state agencies on climate risks and preparedness, and can promote collaboration across regions and between the public and private sectors.

As states face increased impacts from climate change, including drought, extreme heat and precipitation, coastal flooding and wildfires, state governments are working to strengthen the resilience of communities and of statewide systems and infrastructure. State governments are crucial in convening local and private interests, and in pooling the resources and expertise of many different state agencies (natural resources, commerce, emergency management, housing and urban development, agriculture, transportation, among others.) However, only fifteen states currently have climate adaptation or resilience plans (with five more currently developing them).

The state of California, which faces diverse climate impacts including sea-level rise, drought, water scarcity and wildfire, has led the United States in developing state-wide climate data and making that data accessible to decision-makers through the Cal-Adapt tool. This state-specific climate data has also informed the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy and the 2014 update titled Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk.

In Colorado, following floods in 2013 impacting 24 counties, the governor established the Colorado Recovery Office to spearhead the development of the Colorado Resilience Framework. The framework establishes the State’s commitment to resiliency and sets long-term resilience goals; a 2016 Annual Plan identified priority projects and metrics for success, and initiated the process of building resiliency into day-to-day state activities. A team of Colorado state agencies also developed the Colorado Climate Action Plan, which focuses on adapting to future climate impacts, increasing the preparedness of state agencies, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Not all comprehensive climate planning occurs in state resilience plans. Louisiana released a Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, a plan to address climate change, sea-level rise, subsidence, hurricanes, storm surges, disconnection of the Mississippi river from coastal marshes and human impacts. The plan includes 124 projects restoring or maintaining more than 800 square miles of land and reducing expected damages by $8.3 billion annually in 50 years.

States can be influential by adopting resilience practices in state-owned assets and operations. They also have particular control over sectors that fall exclusively (or primarily) under their jurisdiction – like insurance, transportation, and building codes. State policies that mandate or incentivize climate resilience in these sectors are particularly impactful. For example, Rhode Island requires all community comprehensive plans take sea-level rise, drought and other climate risks into account.