Climate-Smart Cities: Targeting Climate Equity in Metro Boston

Bringing nature back into cities lowers carbon emissions and helps keep people safe from major storms and extreme weather. The Trust for Public Land’s Climate Smart Cities program offers a collection of city-focused case studies and highlights on-the-ground programs to invest in parks and protect land.

The Boston metro area is highly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. TPL partnered with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to bring its Climate-Smart Cities initiative to the 14 cities and towns in the Metro Mayors Coalition, providing key planning and decision-making support to help these communities prepare for more intense storms, warmer days, and rising seas. With a goal to help MAPC achieve regional resiliency for those who need it most, TPL and MAPC partners developed a publicly-available online mapping and decision-support tool to guide the strategic siting of parks, natural spaces, and green infrastructure solutions.

Since its creation, the tool has been used by a wide variety of city agencies, NGOs, the regional planning council, engaged residents, and others seeking to bring a data-driven approach to community parks and resilience planning. For example, Boston Public Works has used the Decision Support Tool, in part, to set sidewalk reconstruction priorities based on the equity and urban heat island analyses; and the Brookline Zoning By-Law Committee has used the Decision Support Tool to help identify areas of overlap between proposed developments and urban heat islands, educating developers on the hazard and helping them implement mitigation measures that align with local need.

TPL’s Climate-Smart Boston Metro Mayors Maps highlight several local challenges resulting from climate change. One map – Focusing on People with the Greatest Need – illustrates how disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected by climate change, with its impacts “stacked on top of histories of pollution, disinvestment and discrimination.” TPL also adds that “without action, climate change will dramatically accelerate these inequities, exacerbating the injustices present in urban environments today. Delivering multi-benefit green infrastructure can help redress some of these systemic inequities in cities. For example, trees and green spaces can minimize the severity of extreme heat days, cooling neighborhoods through shade and evapotranspiration, and capturing particulate air pollutants.”

Nationwide, TPL’s Climate-Smart Cities program identifies and supports multi-benefit solutions around the country with a strategy to:

  • Connect neighborhoods with bike-walk corridors to strengthen communities and provide carbon-free transportation.
  • Cool urban air with shade trees and new parks, minimizing effects of heat waves, lowering indoor temperatures, and reducing summer energy use.
  • Absorb stormwater runoff, reduce flooding, and recharge drinking water supplies.
  • Protect at-risk cities that are vulnerable to climate-driven devastation like hurricanes and flooding with strategically placed shoreline parks and natural land buffers.

Learn more about Climate-Smart Cities –including programs in Los Angeles, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Richmond, CA – here.