Existing social systems perpetuate the inequitable distribution of the benefits of energy consumption and the impacts of climate change. Communities can promote equity and climate justice by shifting power to the community members who are impacted by the problems and solutions at hand.

Incorporating Equity in Resilience Planning

A graphic depicting the Steps to Resilience centered on equity, with components of iteration, monitoring, and evaluation.

The Steps to Resilience are centered on equity. Click the image for a larger view.

Putting equity at the center of climate resilience planning can lead to a cascade of positive changes for communities. As leaders and community members work together to eliminate factors such as race, income, and ability as determinants of who can withstand or bounce back from the impacts of climate change, they thrive together, building resilience for all.

Equitable planning processes serve as public demonstrations that opportunities are available to everyone, no matter their background. Centering equity in every decision of the planning process can help groups come up with inclusive solutions that work for everyone.

Components of Equity

Climate resilience plans can focus on any or all of the following types of equity. Focusing on which types of equity a project promotes is one way to recognize which types still represent opportunities.

Procedural equity focuses on ensuring that  programs, policies, and processes are fair and inclusive for all.  Strategies that invite and prepare new participants from under-represented groups  into decision-making contexts increase procedural equity.

Distributional equity is concerned that resources, opportunities, and benefits of programs as well as the costs or reporting burdens they incur are shared fairly. Projects that increase access to affordable housing, healthy food outlets, and affordable medical care are working to increase distributional equity.

Structural equity, sometimes referred to as intergenerational equity, addresses underlying systems that create and perpetuate inequities in society. Projects focused on structural equity work to correct past harms and prevent future negative consequences; they address root causes of differential vulnerability through changes in policies, law, and governance.

Cultural equity values the diverse backgrounds within a community. Projects that build cultural equity emphasize the importance of including, respecting, and celebrating different groups in decision-making processes. Such projects display a commitment to undoing racism and instituting equitable multicultural norms.

A subset of case studies in the Toolkit now include Equity Insights: brief descriptions provide concrete examples of how communities are integrating equity into their climate resilience planning. 

Shifting power to the community

The graphic below shows the Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership. The spectrum characterizes the dynamics of engagement in an innovative way that helps leaders recognize the benefits of shifting power to community members. This powerful tool, developed by Rosa Gonz├ílez of Facilitating Power, promotes deep participation by communities commonly excluded from democratic voice and power. Access the Spectrum in its 14-page booklet to learn strategies for shifting power to the community members who are or will be impacted by the problems and solutions at hand.

Chart with columns and rows describing characteristics of engagement

The Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership describes developmental stages for shifting engagements toward community-driven decision-making. Click the image for a larger view.

Guiding Principles

Another useful resource from Rosa Gonz├ílez and the National Association of Climate Resilience Planners, Community Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework »  offers the following principles for resilience planning:

More opportunities to promote equity

Solutions that explicitly advance equity often require additional considerations before they can be implemented. Introducing new processes where current or past projects have been in place can have unintended consequences.

The following questions can help you consider co-benefits of equity-related solutions. The list was co-developed by D. Williams-Rajee and community partners for Portland and Multnomah County’s Climate Action through Equity plan.

Goal Question
Shared Benefits Can the benefits of action reduce historical or current disparities?
Engagement Can the action engage and empower in a meaningful, authentic and culturally appropriate manner?
Capacity Building Can the action help build community capacity through funding, and expanded knowledge base or other resources?
Alignment & Partnership Can the action align with and support priorities of frontline communities, create an opportunity to leverage resources and build collaborative partnerships?
Relationship Building Can the action help foster the building of effective, long-term relationships and trust between diverse communities and local government?
Economic Opportunity & Staff Diversity Does the option support frontline communities through workforce development, contracting opportunities or increased diversity of city and county staff?
Accountability Does the option have accountability mechanisms to ensure frontline communities will equitably benefit and not be disproportionately harmed?
Disproportionate Impacts (of actions) Does the action generate burdens to frontline and marginalized communities?

Are the benefits of the action broadly accessible to households and businesses throughout the community – particularly, communities of color, low income individuals and emerging small businesses? 


For more information on Equity, see the Social Systems and Justice Chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment »

Banner Image Credit

Capital Pride Heroes Gala, Washington, DC, by Ted Eytan. Used via a  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last modified
3 May 2024 - 11:42am