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).
Please see a draft of the Climate Element Planning Guidance and a dashboard connecting you to our guidance appendices. This draft is currently in a comment period ending on April 24, 2023. Please submit comments to GMSClimate@commerce.wa.gov.
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 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.
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?
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 March 2023
During the last months of the program, March 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. 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 (PDF).
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.
Climate Planning Resources
- Governor Inslee’s Climate Priorities. This page provides the policies and actions that the governor has pursued since assuming office in 2013.
- Municipal Research and Services Center provides a list of plans, resolutions and other documents that local and Tribal governments in Washington state have adopted to reduce emissions and respond to the effects of climate change.
- C40 Implementation Guide: A toolkit for planners for integrating climate adaptation.
Governor’s Smart Communities Awards Program
GMA Laws and Rules
GMA Periodic Update
Growth Management Grants
Growth Management Topics
Guidebooks and Resources
Defense Community Compatibility
Regional Planners’ Forums
Short Course on Local Planning
Submitting Materials to the State for Review
Sarah Fox, AICP, Climate Program Manager
Gary Idleburg, Mitigation Lead
Michael Burnham, Resilience Lead