As cities and counties across Southeast Florida strive to build a sustainable, resilient and prosperous region, the resulting public policies, programs and projects must produce benefits that are shared by all.
Climate change functions as a “threat multiplier,” increasing individuals’ exposure and sensitivity to extreme weather, flooding, sea level rise and extreme heat, thus reducing their capacity to respond to current and future climate impacts. This multiplier effect is particularly burdensome for, and at times disproportionately borne by, individuals with low wealth or limited income and people of color due to structural and institutional forms of racism, such as housing discrimination and segregation. Additional frontline communities, which are frequently highly exposed to climate risks with fewer resources, capacity, safety nets, or political power include older adults, the unhoused, immigrants, differently-abled people, youth, outdoor workers, non-English speakers and those with chronic health conditions. Individuals with multiple vulnerability factors — such as being a person of color, a non-English speaker and low income — experience cascading climate impacts more acutely.
Stakeholders should identify frontline communities within their own localities and assess how to deliver equitable processes and equitable outcomes. Individuals, neighborhoods and communities in Southeast Florida may experience geographic vulnerability if they have proximity to a current or future hazard (e.g., if they live in a low-lying area prone to flooding or a heat island). Due to structural barriers, some groups experience socioeconomic vulnerability because they lack the resources and opportunities, financial or other, to be able to mitigate or avoid a hazard. Frontline communities may be left behind by recent economic booms or displaced from their higher-elevation homes or businesses, resulting in increased challenges to equitably adapting to climate change.
Equity means that policymaking, service delivery and distribution of resources account for the different histories, challenges and needs of the people served. Equity differs from equality, which treats everyone the same despite disparate outcomes. A climate equity framework prioritizes frontline communities and people who contribute least to climate change. Climate equity ensures that these communities play a central role in the transformation of the systems that have established and continue to perpetuate the unequal burden of climate impacts, and that they directly benefit from a just transition to a low-carbon, resilient community.
The Compact shares the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership’s definition of equity, as outlined in the Seven50: SE Florida Prosperity Plan:
Equity: Just and fair inclusion. The goal of equity must be to create conditions that allow all individuals and communities to reach their full potential to the benefit of the individual and the larger regional community. An equitable region is one in which all can participate and prosper in their communities and in the regional economy, and where benefits and burdens are shared fairly.
RCAP 3.0 seeks to provide guidance to center equity as an integral part of climate mitigation and resilience planning, program and policy development, project design and decision-making for budgeting and investments. Efforts to abate carbon pollution and adapt to climate change impacts must actively seek, include and prioritize direction from frontline communities while ensuring that such initiatives reduce existing burdens and produce benefits for these communities.
 Derived from San Antonio, https://www.sasustainability.com/category/climate-equity