Green Works for Climate Resilience: 
A Community Guide to Climate Planning

Today, more than half of the people in the world, and 80% of the US population, live in urban areas. Cities are on the frontlines of climate change impacts, such as sea-level rise and coastal flooding, drought, and extreme weather – all of which are exacerbating existing urban challenges, including resource degradation, economic downturns, affordable housing crises and others. The ability of cities to thrive in the face of rapid growth and a changing climate will depend on the ways in which we plan, develop, and manage our cities in the coming decades.

Climate change is intensifying existing stresses on wildlife and their habitats and amplifying natural hazards that threaten people and property. The Climate-Smart Communities program helps cities and towns use nature-based approaches to prepare themselves for the impacts of climate change in ways that support people, wildlife, and habitats. Learn more about the different ways communities are already working to implement nature-based approaches with the “Green Works for Climate Resilience: A Community Guide to Climate Planning”. 

  • Green Works cover

    The intent of this guide is to provide communities with an overview of the kinds of nature-based approaches that can be used to respond to and prepare for the impacts of climate change, and provide descriptions and examples of the ways in which communities are already working to implement them, ranging from streamlining adaptation into existing zoning to the development of holistic, multi-sector adaptation plans. Nature-based approaches rely on enhancing, protecting, and restoring natural infrastructure, such as coastal wetlands, parks, and tree canopies, as well as features that mimic natural processes, such as rain gardens or green roofs that are used in low-impact development (LID).*

Green Works for Climate Resilience outlines the nature-based approaches that communities can use to prepare for and respond to the following climate impacts:

  • Coastal Impacts: Sea Level Rise, Coastal Flooding, and Erosion

  • Drought and Increasing Aridity

  • Extreme Heat/Urban Heat Island Effect

  • Inland Urban Flooding and Stormwater Management

  • Inland Wetland and Waterway Management

  • Landscape and Habitat Change


Below are some examples from the guide that highlight some of the ways in which communities have already started using nature-based approaches.

  • Miami-Dade County is working with a regional planning group and updating its zoning requirements to increase the buffers required for developments near coastal wetlands areas. This will preserve habitat, allow for wetland migration, and keep infrastructure away from areas prone to flooding.

  • In Marysville, MI, an old, failing, and unattractive seawall and sidewalk were replaced with 2.7 acres of beautiful, living shoreline. Living shorelines can help communities be more resilient to the effects of climate change while providing habitat for wildlife. Funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restorative Initiative helped make this project possible.

  • In Virginia, NWF, Rappahannock River Basin Commission (RRBC), and other partners developed a partnership to link NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat ® Program to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL (total maximum daily load) and RRBC’s economic development-based conservation programs. The resulting outcome, called “River Friendly Yards (RFY),” is a multi-phase program to convert conventional lawns in the Chesapeake Bay bioregion to River Friendly Yards that have enhanced wildlife and nutrient reduction capacities.

  • Seattle’s reLeaf program works to engage, educate, and support residents in enhancing the urban forest, namely through tree giveaways and educational programs. The city’s RainWise program also encourages homeowners to use green infrastructure, including trees, to manage stormwater, offering rebates to those that do so.

*When reading the PDF version, the illustrations can be seen best when the document is set-up in two-page view: From the drop-down menu, select View/Page display/Two-up continuous for best results.

For best results, print the Guide on double-sided paper so it reads like a book (and saves paper.)

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