Communities across the United States are experiencing increasingly severe and frequent floods, wildfires, extreme heat, and other hazards due to climate change. These hazards are impacting local economies by damaging critical infrastructure and commercial districts, disrupting business operations, reducing municipal budgets, threatening worker safety, and reducing housing supply and affordability, among other impacts. Economic development strategies can help address these risks and create new economic opportunities, but to be effective over the long-term, they need to plan for a changing climate. Similarly, incorporating economic development considerations into climate resilience-focused efforts can unlock new benefits of resilience and meet emerging needs for it. However, prior C2ES research found that integrated planning between these two disciplines at the local and regional levels is uncommon.
This report seeks to address this gap by identifying areas where economic development and climate resilience can achieve common goals and by exploring on-the-ground projects where innovative actions at this nexus are already being taken. Common goals that advance both climate resilience and economic development include: creating climate resilient development and infrastructure projects, maximizing economic benefits in climate resilience initiatives, developing the climate-ready workforce, recruiting and developing a business community that offers climate resilience solutions, and focusing climate resilience and economic development efforts on low-income and marginalized communities, among others. A number of tools commonly used in both economic development and climate resilience, such as infrastructure investments, local policies, and public-private partnerships, can be used to work toward these outcomes. We explore these goals and strategies through case studies of seven cities around the United States that are advancing this collaborative approach, serving as models for other communities experiencing similar climate impacts and risks. We spotlight two of these projects that are centering equity in broader resilience and economic development efforts. Finally, we provide recommendations to governments and the private sector to better support this type of action.