PB can: strengthen climate resilience
“Climate resilience” is a community’s ability to bounce back from setbacks caused by climate change. We often think about it as it relates to coastal flooding and major storms—critical issues for the 53% of New Jerseyans who live in coastal zones.10 But less dramatic issues impact New Jersey’s health and well-being, like how well communities are equipped to deal with “regular” stormwater and aging infrastructure. We also know that the impacts of climate change aren’t experienced evenly: frontline communities, communities of color, and low-income communities suffer the effects of climate change the worst.
By asking people to make decisions about where they live, participatory budgeting (PB) empowers community members to apply their lived experience to the most critical issues of our time. PB can help your community make sure resources for strengthening local resilience are equitably distributed.
“All stakeholders, including elected officials, communities, clean water utilities and environmentalists, must work together to solve the significant quality of life issues associated with climate change and resiliency, in an equitable way.”
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Research and community experience show that frontline communities, low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities experience the worst effects of climate change. Yet while these communities have contributed to the problem of climate change the least, they receive the fewest resources to deal with its effects.
Overcoming this historic inequity means centering the people who are most impacted by and vulnerable to climate change and other environmental threats. Resources and decision-making power need to shift to impacted communities, and impacted people should lead and develop solutions from the ground-up. In New Jersey, environmental justice isn’t just an ideal—it’s a mandate. Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 23 set into motion a process through which all Executive branch departments will be asked to consider environmental justice in their statutory and regulatory responsibilities.11
PB is a concrete process for advancing environmental justice. By asking community members to develop and vote on their own solutions, PB can shift power to communities who are most impacted by climate change and environmental injustice.
“Community-driven climate adaptation planning has the potential to address inequities and build resilience because communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change have lived experiences and knowledge that the public bureaucracies typically tasked with adaptation planning often lack.”
Click here for more resources on how PB can help your community.
PB has already been used to meet climate resilience needs using these funding sources:
- Municipal funding
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds
- Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds
It hasn’t happened yet (as far as we know), but there is strong potential for PB to be used with:
- Clean Water + Drinking Water State Revolving Funds
- Resilient NJ funding (in Jersey City, Middlesex County, Long Beach Island, and Ventnor)
- Funds similar to TIF funds, like NJ Economic Redevelopment and Growth funds, PILOT funds, and Community Benefits Agreement funds
In Chicago, residents have long criticized the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF)13 program for funding projects that brought few community benefits. By empowering the West Humboldt Park community to directly decide how $2 million in TIF funds were spent, Blocks Together shifted that paradigm—and strengthened local resilience at the same time.
Blocks Together is a grassroots organization based in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. They piloted their TIF PB process in 2014, in partnership with UIC Great Cities Institute, the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), and the City of Chicago. Partners showed how PB can both achieve community goals, like strengthening climate resilience, while bringing transparency and equity to local budgeting. Six community-developed projects were selected by community members. One winning proposal installed living, green roofs on four neighborhood properties. The project demonstrated how green roofs can absorb stormwater, combat the urban heat island effect, and reduce building energy costs.
“Through this on-going process, [members and residents] transformed the way they saw their role in the community and their relationship to government—from recipients of services to investors and active citizens with ownership of and rights in the community.”
The Participatory Budgeting Project will follow up with more information on how PB can help solve the issues that matter most in your community.