Climate Action Plans are meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus mitigate or decelerate the rate of climate change. Their strategies and goals are to increase energy efficiencies and conservation, and cultivate transitions away from fossil fuel dependence. Climate Adaptation Plans are meant to respond to the impacts of climate change upon communities and cultivate resiliency in anticipation of expected impacts. Their strategies and goals vary according to each community’s circumstances. Quite often the two approaches, mitigation and adaptation are combined, as in a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan; add in the concepts of resiliency, and the nomenclature can vary as much as the plans and communities themselves!

It is estimated that cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy, and emit more than 70% of global greenhouse gases. Over 90% of all urban areas are coastal, putting most cities on Earth at risk for flooding from sea level rise and powerful storms. Almost 50% of cities worldwide are already dealing with the effects of climate change. With high physical, financial and social losses at stake in their communities, major cities are taking climate change responses and planning very seriously. The C40 Cities, a network of 58 megacities worldwide, is playing a prominent role in climate leadership and generating proven models that others can adopt (infographic).

The best of climate action/adaptation/resiliency plans, regardless of the community’s size, share common processes and best practices: building a planning team that includes all types of stakeholders and connecting with diverse community members; carefully assessing the community’s vulnerability, risks and needs in the areas most relevant to their situation and population; setting strategies, goals and developing a plan that articulates the goals, how they’ll be implemented, and how progress will be measured and factor into the ongoing execution of the plan.

As people of faith, we have the unique opportunity to bring issues of equity, fairness anddisproportionate environmental impacts to the table in community planning discussions and decisions. When all eyes and ears may be focused on scientific and/or practical details, we can insist on solutions that benefit all residents and neighbors and help to end environmental racism in our communities. This example from First Unitarian Church in Oakland illustrates such as success. To learn more about how your congregation can integrate its environmental and social justice work, use the resources available in our EJ curriculum, Our Place in the Web of Life.

Here are some examples of Climate Action Plans we find inspiring:

  • The Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) was adopted in December 2012, following a two-year planning process involving he Oakland Climate Action Coalition and many allies. This plan includes ambitiously aggressive three and ten year plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and has been recognized for its leadership by communities of color and is commitment to both economic equity and environmental justice. Of note is the participation of members the Earth Justice Associates at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, CA throughout the planning stages. Associates currently serve on the Coalition’s Renewable Energy, Land Use & Transportation, and Food Justice & Land Access steering committees.
  • The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan (10/12) and Implementation Guide was created by elected officials in four counties who collaborate to mitigate the causes of and adapt to the consequences of climate change. This is a very comprehensive regional plan for an area feeling the impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding.
  • The Chicago Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions and prepare for change is the result of the work of a multi-stakeholder task force. The plan sets ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is built on five strategies: energy efficient buildings; clean and renewable energy sources; improved transportation options; reduced waste and industrial pollution; and adaptation. The plan reaches out to and depends on the participation of all Chicago’s residents, from individuals, families and community-based organizations to businesses, institutions, and government.

Learn More

The Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse webpage tracks adaptation initiatives, searchable by location, resource type, sector or impact. The clearinghouse also includes a list of state and local adaptation planning efforts, with links and brief overviews.  Planning resources and tool kits address specific issues, such as sea-level rise, flooding, and urban heat.

Bay Localize (CA) has assembled this Community Resilience Toolkit: A Workshop Guide for Community Resilience Planning for use by neighborhood associations, faith groups, clubs, schools, city planners and others. This is an excellent compilation of resources and materials for leading resilience planning workshops with a particularly strong social justice response. Materials include tools for evaluating your community’s resiliency and setting goals in the areas of: food, water, local energy, local transportation and housing, local jobs and economy, social services, and civic preparedness. Prompts for clarifying individual and collective actions, as well as policy actions at the local, state and federal level.

Climate Access supports a community of practice for communicators around climate issues. The website features a blog, news articles, and resources for effective climate communications. A collaborative project of The Resource Innovation Group’s Social Capital Project, Rutgers Initiative on Climate, and Society and the Stonehouse Standing Circle.

The Climate Adaptation and Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) website shares profiles of adaptation project case studies, information resources, a directory of people and organizations engaged in adaptation work, tools for decision makers, managers, and educators, and a community section including an international events calendar and advice column. A project of Island Press and EcoAdapt.

The Climate Change 101 Series from is a series of reports and podcasts covering climate science and impacts, climate adaptation, technological solutions, business solutions, international action, federal action, recent action in the U.S. states, action taken by local governments and the details of cap and trade.  From the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

The Coastal Climate Adaption website offers a wide range of resources on climate change impacts and adaptation, and a forum for coastal state and local government officials. The list of resources is organized by topic area and state, and includes adaptation plans, action plans, case studies, strategies, guidebooks, outreach material, risk and vulnerability assessments, stakeholder engagement guides, and training and workshop materials. Written for residents of states in the Eastern seaboard, Gulf Coast, Western seaboard, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Great Lakes Region. From the Coastal Services Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Climate Prep website highlights news stories and lessons learned from climate change adaptation projects at the national and international policy levels. From the World Wildlife Fund.

Implementing Climate Change Adaptation: Lessons Learned From Ten Examples, prepared by Headwater Economics, an independent nonpartisan research group, highlights ten cities and counties from around the country, representative of communities grappling with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, hotter summers, more flooding, and rising insurance costs. Report focuses on how to begin adaptation planning, how best to use climate science, determine the right policies, institutionalize them, and budget for them.

Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments prepared by Climate Impacts Group and ICLEI, is a comprehensive and lengthy guide with a wealth of information that leads readers through a detailed, yet easy-to-understand process for planning for climate change.

The Oakland Climate Action Coalition wrote its Toolkit: Create Climate Action in Your Community to showcase the group’s achievements and share its winning strategies and best practices with other community-based organizations and city staff. Oakland’s Energy and Climate Action Plan is considered one of the most equitable climate action plans in the country, pairing aggressive greenhouse gas reducing targets with solutions that protect the health and wealth of its low-income residents and communities of color.

Take Action

  • Find out if your town, city or region where you live or worship is already a member of ICLEI or has a climate action, mitigation, adaptation or resiliency plan or initiative. If so, study it to learn its recommendations and research whether they have been funded and/or implemented. Explore opportunities for your congregation to join the conversation, generate support for the plan, engage and collaborate with other participants or bring attention to issues and needs not addressed.
  • Create an intergenerational educational or service opportunity for your congregation that ties into a piece of your local or state climate action plan. Or, plan to educate the congregation and the surrounding community on the causality link between manmade greenhouse gas emissions and their local effects. How can you use your local or state plan to motivate more individuals in your congregation and community to act on the personal, local and state level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take adaptive actions? Hear one person’s thoughts on “What can one person do…?”
  • No existing plan or initiative? Consider convening discussions to get one started! Identify local climate change related issues, such as flooding, destruction from extreme weather events, drought, or extreme heat. How might you work towards solutions with other community organizations affiliated with your congregation? The Community Resilience Toolkit: A Workshop Guide for Community Resilience Planning and the Toolkit: Create Climate Action in Your Community described above are excellent tools to guide you.
  • What pieces of proposed legislation at your local and state level will support climate mitigation, adaptation and resiliency? Join with other congregations, your district, or your UU State Advocacy Network, to coordinate your advocacy work and effectiveness.
  • Select an effective national advocacy campaign for the reduction of carbon emissions, and facilitate the participation of congregants and others in your community.
  • What actions is your congregation taking to mitigate climate change, adapt to changes and plan for disaster? At the physical level – buildings, property, landscaping, energy usage? At the parish and pastoral level? At the spiritual level? Whether you are following through on your community’s existing plan or creating one specific to your congregation, members and locale, planning and taking concrete action can engage your members and congregation in important ecological justice work. Both the UUA’s Green Sanctuary Manual and Interfaith Power and Light are good resources.
  • Consider options for individual, congregational or group advocacy to move from policy recommendations to funded and implemented public policy. To do this well, requires research and knowledge about which recommendations are being implemented, updates on which recommendations have not been implemented, and the public process to advocate for movement from policy recommendations to public policy.