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Planning and prioritizing climate action can help your community thrive

Village of Piermont's flood adaptition plan
Example of a waterfront resilience plan from the Village of Piermont (PDF)

Many communities are creating Climate Action Plans that detail how they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat climate change.  Another important aspect of responding to a changing climate is the Climate Adaptation & Resilience Plan (CARP), which provides a roadmap for how communities will respond to climate impacts like flooding and heat waves.

A CARP is a flexible tool that can be scaled to fit the needs of a community. It can focus on a specific area (e.g., the waterfront), specific assets (e.g., critical infrastructure), or comprehensively look at an entire city.  It can be a chapter in a Climate Action Plan, part of a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, or a stand-alone document.

Why Create a CARP?

Because your community wants to:

  • Plan proactively for a thriving, resilient future,
  • Understand the unique set of risks and opportunities you face in our changing climate,
  • Create many benefits including economic stability, improved public safety and health, and ecosystem resilience,
  • Access state funding and support programs, and
  • Receive points toward Climate Smart Communities (CSC) certification.

What is a CARP?

An inventory of climate vulnerabilities and a plan for addressing them, including a:

  • Summary of current and future conditions in the focus area (local, county-level or regional),
  • Assessment of vulnerabilities across a range of sectors and neighborhoods,
  • Overview of adaptation strategies that could increase physical, social and economic resilience,
  • Selection and prioritization of specific adaptation actions, from simple to more complex, depending on need and risk exposure,
  • Plan to adopt, share, implement, and update the CARP.

How to develop a CARP

Tour of waste water treatment plant adaptations
A tour of adaptations at the Village of Catskill's waste water treatment plant. Photo: Liz LoGiudice

The Hudson River Estuary Program works with NYS Climate Smart Communities (CSC) to provide guidance on this type of planning. CSC supports a network of communities engaged in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving climate resilience.

The CSC certification program awards points to applicant communities for completing a CARP (PE7: Climate Adaptation Plan) and conducting other climate-ready actions. Additionally, CSC provides municipalities with guidance, support, and access to funding. Recognizing that a CARP can be tailored to meet each community’s unique needs, the CSC program offers a variable point system so municipalities can earn points based on the scale of the CARP that they develop.


A Step-by-Step Guide to Developing a CARP

Step 1 - Inventory & Assess

Step 2 - Vision & Plan

  • Work with community stakeholders to develop a Climate Resilience Vision (3 CSC points).  See our Inclusive Planning for Community Resilience page for tips on engaging stakeholders.
  • Select your Climate Adaptation Strategies from a list of actions (consider this checklist from community resilience plans in the Hudson Valley).

Step 3 – Prioritize, Implement & Update

Download our more detailed step-by-step guide (pdf)


How to Participate in Climate Smart Communities

  • Municipalities pass a resolution adopting the CSC Pledge, which includes 10 elements that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to a changing climate.
  • Once they’ve taken the pledge, municipalities can participate in the CSC certification program by taking actions that earn points toward bronze or silver-level certification.
  • CSC Pledge Element #7, Enhance Community Resilience to Climate Change, provides guidance and resources for municipalities developing a CARP and taking other adaptation actions.

How to Get More Help

  • Detailed guidance from CSC on developing a CARP can be accessed here.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension Climate Resilience Partnership assists communities in the Hudson River Estuary watershed in completing certain CSC Pledge Element #7 actions.
  • Lifeboats HV provides funding and support for Climate Smart Communities Task Force Coordinators in Greene, Ulster, Columbia and Dutchess counties through their Local Champions program.
  • Funding for climate adaptation and resilience is available
  • If you’re hiring a consultant, make sure they have experience with resilience planning, Hudson Riverfront communities, and the state’s latest guidelines, including the Community Risk and Resilience Act.

Adaptation vs. Resilience: What’s the difference?

Adaptation initiatives aim to lower risks to infrastructure, such as raising critical utilities at a flood-prone waste water treatment plant. Resilience is often described as the ability to “bounce back” from a natural disaster or other disruption. Resilience requires ample assets, careful planning and attention to preparedness in order to be ready to respond to disruption. In NYS and across the world, many communities do not have the resources or capacity to bounce back from disaster.

The “bounce forward” approach to resilience recognizes that existing inequities often disrupt the ability of under-resourced neighborhoods and cities to recover quickly from disasters.

This approach to resilience acknowledges that past practices have confined people of color, disabled and low-income people to certain neighborhoods and historically these neighborhoods have borne economic, environmental and industrial burdens. Many of these same neighborhoods now face increased impacts from climate-related issues, such as extreme heat or flooding. Environmental and climate justice issues should be addressed and a seat at the table should be provided to all stakeholders in resilience planning.

The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was signed into law in 2019. This law seeks to address climate justice issues and embrace a just transition framework in New York’s response to climate change. A 22-member Climate Action Council has been tasked with preparing a plan to meet New York’s clean energy and climate agenda, while collaborating with the Climate Justice Working Group to ensure a “bounce forward” approach to resilience for all. 

Next Page: Resources for Adapting

Coming Up: Climate-adaptive Design