Climate Program

The Washington State Legislature tasked the Department of Commerce to initiate a multiyear project that would develop guidance for counties and cities to address climate change issues within their comprehensive plans. The guidance will focus on mitigation (greenhouse gas reduction) and resilience (preparation for adverse effects from climate change).

Program Overview

The Washington Department of Commerce is developing a model element to help cities and counties address climate change in their comprehensive plans. The model element will include mitigation (greenhouse gas reduction) and resilience (climate impacts preparedness, response, and recovery) planning guidance, as well as a model chapter with goals and policies (Menu of Measures) that communities may voluntarily adapt or adopt into their comprehensive plans as part of their periodic update. The model element — described in the 2021 budget [Section 129 (126)] — must be completed by June 2023 and must integrate input from fellow state agencies and other partners.

Model Element Details

Cities and counties may use the model element to integrate mitigation and resilience goals and policies within a single climate chapter or across several chapters, for example: as part of housing, land use, and transportation elements. Jurisdictions may choose to develop their own goals and policies, or adapt ones from the Menu of Measures. Mitigation policies as another example could support weatherizing affordable housing units or boosting public transit to reduce vehicle miles traveled. Resilience policies could support raising bridges vulnerable to sea-level rise and planting drought-tolerant street trees to shade hot sidewalks and store carbon.

Commerce is identifying social, economic, and environmental co-benefits for all policies, for example: supporting tribal treaty rights and ecosystem services, and prioritizing them to uplift communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. This work will utilize the Washington Department of Health’s Environmental Health Disparities Map.

The model element’s mitigation planning guidance will include methods to develop a greenhouse gas emissions inventory or estimate, or to simply select from the Menu of Measures. The companion resilience planning guidance will show communities how to identify and address hazards exacerbated by climate change, including: landslides, floods, droughts, wildfires, changes to temperature, precipitation, and sea levels.

Schedule of Project (Closing June 2023)

The Climate Program has developed a project schedule that has interim deliverables that will ensure that the delivery of the model climate element and guidance is met by June 2023. The following graphic shows a brief visualization of the project timeline, which is also discussed in detail in the following section.

Initialization Phase

The initialization phase included several standard startup tasks, such as executing interagency agreements and developing contracts for complimentary expertise to be added to the project team due to limited staff availability.

Definition Phase

Between January and April 2022, Commerce and project partners contributed to a list of climate measures (goals, policies, actions). Hundreds of draft measures were submitted by our project collaborators. This draft list of measures will be refined in the next phases of work, and will include identifying measures that are demonstrably effective to reduce climate impacts, among other criteria. This refinement will be undertaken by Commerce, partner agencies, Tribal representatives, local government staff members and Uplift members.

Design and Development Phase

The Design and Development Phase that runs through September 2022 focuses on developing model element guidance and diving deeper into the draft measures that were gathered in the previous phase. Some of the considerations for measures that will ultimately be included in the model element include the following:

  • Is the measure scalable by size of jurisdiction?
  • What data do we (agency partner team) have to support a ranking system?
  • What best available science do we have to support a jurisdiction if they choose a particular measure?
  • Will the measure achieve the reduction or provide resilience?
  • How is success demonstrated?

Momentum Phase

Between September 2022 and January 2023, our work will focus on the ensuring that the model guidance will work seamlessly with an interactive online tool that we are developing to assist a local planner with production of a draft climate change element for their jurisdiction. During this phase, we will be incorporating input and guidance from Uplift members and the pilot program cities into our drafts. Also at this time, an AmeriCorps Fellow will be joining our team for several months to support outreach and collaboration efforts.

Final Draft Phase – Starting February 2023

During the last months of the program, February to June 2023, we will ensure that the model climate element and guidance are relevant and scalable to jurisdictions. We will track versions of the drafts and elicit final responses on the drafts from all interested groups. Although a public comment period is not required of this project or process, we enthusiastically welcome the public and all of our partners to provide feedback during this phase.

Outreach for the final draft will include potentially offering a Climate Short Course and presenting the drafts to interested groups throughout the state.

Partners and Collaboration

The development of the model climate change element includes multiple partners. The agencies that form the core steering team include: Washington State Department of Transportation, Department of Ecology, Department of Health, Department of Fish & Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and Military — Emergency Management Division. The core team also includes members from the U.W. Climate Impacts Group, Municipal Research & Services Center, and Association of Washington Cities.

Along with this core team, there are three other contributing groups: The Chapter Review Group, Tribal Representatives, and Uplift Community Leaders. Each group has an associated project dashboard that provides meeting schedules, minutes, and drafts under review. Contact the Commerce team if you are interested in more information on these groups.

Chapter Review Group

The Chapter Review Group is composed of planners from cities, counties, regional planning associations, consultants, and interested individuals. Click on the following link to see a list of participants

Washington Tribal Representatives

Representatives were invited to a listening session in March 2022. Two more sessions are planned to occur before the end of the project. 

Uplift Leaders

This group is composed of community leaders from overburdened communities throughout the state. Commerce partnered with the non-profit, Front and Centered, to support their contribution to the project. 

Assistance and Grants for Climate Change Planning Efforts

Commerce provided a competitive grant for climate planning in June of 2022. We hope to continue this grant source throughout the periodic update cycle, pending continued legislative appropriation. You will also find state guidelines and resources below.

Grants

Climate Planning Resources

Key Topics

Contact

Sarah Fox, AICP, Climate Program Manager
Gary Idleburg, Mitigation Lead
Michael Burnham, Resilience Lead
GMSClimate@commerce.wa.gov
Phone: 360-725-3114

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