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Environment, Climate and Health

The National Climate Resilience Framework Provides a Roadmap for Needed Policies and Programs to Better Prepare Communities for Adverse Conditions

November 30, 2023


In September 2023, the White House issued the National Climate Resilience Framework, highlighting the many federal policies and programs that can help facilitate and fund climate mitigation and community resilience. The Framework also includes next steps for federal interventions on climate change and considers opportunities for cross sector action to promote national and community resilience.

Resilience — a term that is often referenced as key to advancing efforts to protect public health in the face of the climate crisis. But what does it actually mean?  Well, it may mean different things to different people. The White House defined resilience in its September 2023 National Climate Resilience Framework, as “the ability to prepare for threats and hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from adverse conditions and disruptions.” With that definition in mind, the Framework incorporates needed policies and programs to strengthen a whole host of social determinants of health, including housing safety and affordability, natural ecosystem protection and promotion, access to healthcare, clean and plentiful water and food, work and educational opportunities, clean energy, and thriving communities.

The Framework not only summarizes the many federal policies and programs that can help facilitate and fund climate mitigation and community resilience, it also includes next steps for federal interventions on climate change, and considers opportunities for cross sector action to promote national and community resilience related to the six main objectives identified in the report:

  • Embedding climate resilience into planning and management,
  • increasing resilience in the built environment,
  • capital investments and innovation to scale climate resilience,
  • providing needed climate risk assessments and resources to communities,
  • protecting lands and water for resilience, and
  • helping communities achieve resilience, safety, health, equity, and economic vitality.  

Among other recommendations, the Framework includes a number of strategies the Network has identified as essential to equitable climate mitigation and adaptation policies and programs, including locally tailored and community-derived solutions; natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions to protect health and mitigate climate change; and addressing the social determinants of health as a climate resilience strategy.

  • Importantly, the Framework recognizes that the design of solutions must include communities as central decision makers and “co-producers” of solutions.  Without true community engagement, climate resilience policies and programs will not sufficiently respond to community needs and objectives. This is acutely important in the development of emergency and disaster preparedness and response plans, which the Framework notes may require updated strategies and policies to account for both an increase in the frequency and severity of climate disasters and chronic climate impacts that increase vulnerabilities during emergencies.
  • The Framework also highlights policies and programs related to agricultural conservation, nature-based infrastructure improvements, and other nature based solutions. The nature-based solutions are associated with multiple co-benefits and demonstrated greenhouse gas reduction and carbon sequestration benefits that can help communities reach climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience goals.  For example, the Framework recognizes the human health and safety benefits associated with policies and programs that strengthen floodplain and wetland protection and restoration — including flood control and water quality and quantity improvements — and the benefits of urban greening policies and programs to reduce cooling costs and extreme heat and improve air quality. The importance of Tribal Nations in land management and indigenous knowledge in implementing nature-based solutions is also recognized throughout the Framework.
  • Policies and programs that equitably strengthen the social determinants of health are also recognized as climate resilience solutions that can promote public health. For example, worker health and safety protection policies and programs are essential to a resilient community, but may have been overlooked as a climate and health solution. And the Framework notes the importance of community designed and staffed resilience hubs developed to withstand disaster and climate threats AND support community needs through workforce development programs, training, social services, legal services and health services, and cultural preservation practices.

The Framework outlines principles of climate resilience to embed in federal programs, policies, and practices, which it notes, should be proactive, whole-system, equitable and just, people-centered, collaborative, and inclusive, durable, and multi-benefit solutions. At the same time, the Framework identifies many crucial steps for communities, state and local governments, Tribal Nations, nonprofits, funders, and businesses to take to protect individual health and community resilience.  Meaningful involvement of public health professionals and community groups can help focus the many policies and programs needed to remain resilient during the climate crisis on health equity and community engagement.

This post was written by Betsy Lawton, Deputy Director, Climate and Health, Network for Public Health Law. The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health.

The legal information and assistance provided in this document do not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state. Support for the Network is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The views expressed in this post do not represent the views of (and should not be attributed to) RWJF.