26 January 2021

As Climate, Health and Economic Threats Mount for US Communities, Practitioners across the United States Offer an Agenda for Building a Resilient Nation

Washington, DC – A set of 10 recommended federal actions the Biden administration can take in the first 100 days of the administration, has been released today by Resilience 21 (R21), a coalition of practitioners from across the US working to safeguard communities from risks from a changing climate. The 100-day action plan for the new Administration lays out steps for shifting from crisis response to proactive planning that can at once address the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the nation in the years ahead.


Over the past year, while in the midst of a global pandemic and social and economic unrest, the country experienced 22 disaster-related events causing $1 billion or more in losses – shattering previous annual records of 16 events in 2011 and 2017. The risks are anticipated to increase as the earth warms and sea level rise occurs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put into sharp focus the need to get ahead of the next disaster, while there is still time. Taking a resilience approach to planning and development is the most effective way forward,” concludes R21 Co-Facilitator, Marissa Aho, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Houston.

“This exciting agenda offers a pathway to leverage the energy required to address the climate crisis to rethink how we can continue to grow and ensure the well-being of our diverse communities, and especially those who suffered most from the direct and indirect impacts of the 20th century carbon-based model,” forwards Greg Guannel, Caribbean Green Technology Director at the University of the Virgin Islands and R21 agenda contributor.

“The current practice of only looking at physical losses from disasters fails to address the toll taken on lives and livelihoods. Frontline workers and communities of color on whom the nation’s health and economic stability depends, are particularly at risk from extreme weather and climate change. We need to adapt to the new normal and account for this now or risk even more destruction and trauma going forward,” declared Brian Strong, Chief Resilience Officer, San Francisco and R21 agenda contributor.

“We are enthused with the direction and focus of this new Administration on solving the climate crisis. It’s time to listen to cities and communities across the country in order to identify appropriate actions for building resilience, including in our Native Nations” said Nikki PIeratos from NDNFund, R21 agenda contributor. “There are policy and program changes that need to happen at the federal level as we tackle the shocks and stresses that lie ahead.”

The 10 recommended actions are:

  1. Create leadership positions and establish the organizational structure necessary to advance change throughout the federal government.
  2. Establish a National Resilience Task Force to bring a community of experts into the process of designing and vetting programs, policies, and top-level issues focused on an equity- centered approach to addressing climate risk and multi-hazards.
  3. Fortify the nation’s communities as part of the national recovery and Build Back Better initiative through strategic investments that build quality jobs, center environmental justice, and harness American innovation in clean energy and advanced technologies.
  4. Research and prepare critical infrastructure, services, and stockpiles for climate change and other emerging problems and stresses related to climate risk and public health.
  5. Update and expand the “Guiding Principles for Federal Buildings,” and establish minimum requirements for federally-supported buildings and infrastructure that advance resilience, sustainability, and social and climate justice.
  6. Develop a contemporary decision-making framework for federal investments and further update NEPA environmental review process. 
  7. Create a “Future Visioning” Task Force to address communities threatened by climate and human-caused displacement including sea level rise, wildfire, riverine and coastal flooding, environmental degradation and pollution, civil unrest, etc.
  8. Create a Resilience Finance Committee to develop and support innovative finance and investment tools, funds, and incentives for a range of funders and investors by drawing upon private and public investments to support and accelerate programmatic technical, and physical upgrades.
  9. Expand and align successful federal programs to accelerate holistic mitigation and adaptation improvements in homes, buildings, and infrastructure. 
  10. Develop a coordinated and integrated investment grade digital platform that provides critical information to inform policy and development in a clear and accessible way and include fundamental research on future hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities informed by best in class science.

The R21 coalition of over 50 citizens and experts representing diverse constituencies and including  engineers, architects, city planners, policymakers, scientists, and meteorologists, formed to leverage the collective strength and wisdom of the members, to advance resilience in the nation’s cities, small towns and tribal communities, and is now calling for the federal government to partner and drive the actions forward. The R21 coalition is facilitated by Laurie Schoeman, Enterprise Community Partners, Marissa Aho, City of Houston and Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, Resilient Cities Network.

The Agenda is available at: www.resilience21.org. You may sign up there for more information and to be notified about a series of public conversations to discuss the Agenda. R21 members and partners will be announcing upcoming speaking events in the coming weeks