Why address climate resilience through land use planning?
Climate science projections show that the Greater Boston Region will be profoundly impacted by a multitude of climate impacts in the coming decades including:
- Chronic coastal flooding due to Sea Level Rise (SLR) and increased storms,
- Urban and inland flooding due to increased precipitation,
- Increased extreme heat and heat waves, as well as periods of drought.
These climate impacts put people, public health, ecosystems, infrastructure, and the built environment at risk. As the region plans for, prepares, and adapts to climate change many municipalities are turning to land use planning as a strategic tool to increase climate resilience.
Land use tools and policies such as zoning ordinances, other regulations, site plan review, and resilient design guidelines can help prepare a municipality long-term for the impacts of climate change.
While a significant portion of the region is already developed, the Greater Boston Region continues to experience strong development and redevelopment, particularly in the residential and commercial markets. There is a great opportunity to enhance local resilience because the buildings, including homes, offices, and commercial properties built today will last for decades to come.
Land use tools, regulations, and other policies can be used to:
- Shift development and people out of harm’s way (i.e. the flood zone);
- Protect natural systems and open space that provide resilience benefits;
- Strengthen and protect built infrastructure (such as homes and businesses) from damage and property loss;
- Enable and encourage the use of green infrastructure to address climate impacts; and
- Require and incentivize resilient building and design practices in new construction and substantial retrofits.
As more communities experience the impacts of climate change, they are looking to update their land use policies and tools through the lens of climate resilience in order to protect public health, safety, and welfare. This includes planning for how climate change will impact land use options (ie. Recognizing an expanding flood plain area, depth, and frequency of flood events), as well as providing guidance and incentives to enhance resilience benefits (such as providing requirements or incentives for open space or green infrastructure).