Prepare Louisville – Engaging the Community in Developing An Equitable Climate Adaptation Plan

In 2019, Climate Access partnered with the Geos Institute to develop the Louisville Metro Government (LMG) Prepare Louisville Climate Adaptation Plan aimed at increasing the city’s resilience in the face of climate impacts. The initiative was part of the Sustain Louisville agenda and went hand-in-hand with Louisville Metro’s plan to mitigate climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

For this project, Climate Access led public engagement efforts. The organization reached more than 3,000 Louisville residents and involved them in assessing climate change risks and co-creating solutions. The community’s input along with the expertise of an Advisory Group composed of leaders representing all sectors of the community, set priorities for community resilience. 

As a result of this Louisville’s current climate adaptation plan covers action items around equity issues in the city, all of which was supported by what Climate Access heard through the public engagement work. According to the plan: “Prepare Louisville addresses climate impacts to the entire community, with additional attention to reducing existing stressors and investing in those who have been historically marginalized.” 

One of the core objectives of the climate adaptation plan is to cohesively address inequality, health, affordability, sustainability and preparedness. According to the plan, some specific direct governmental actions towards this objective include creating and establishing funding mechanisms for Resilience Hubs where residents would be able to access mitigation assistance, resources and support. Another action includes providing coordination among organizations serving those impacted by climate change and other environmental effects. Those are just some examples of the action items covered in the adaptation plan. 


The Advisory Group put together by Climate Access and the Geos Institute consisted of experts from a holistic range of sectors representing the community. This group helped provide input and guidance throughout the entirety of the process. Climate Access co-led facilitation of the Advisory Group with Geos. 

The public engagement work started at the same time as the work with the Advisory Group and was combined in order to provide expert input while prioritizing the action items in the climate adaptation plan. 

The intentionality behind this approach was derived from Climate Access’s methods of community engagement in which the organization engages the public as partners in assessing risks and thereby developing and implementing solutions that addresses the climate crisis while meeting the needs of community members including those most impacted by climate change. The organization’s approach ensures that those most affected by climate change impacts have a voice and decision-making power for their communities.

Climate Access gathered insights from more than ten community leaders to inform how to frame the issues and effectively engage residents including those that face the greatest barriers to participating in local planning processes. The interviews helped inform the creation of the engagement plan including the community dialogues. 

Climate Access conducted extensive stakeholder research and engagement to inform the risk assessment for the community and the development of climate solutions. The project included in-depth interviews with Louisville Metro Government staff, community members, academic professionals, local nonprofit staff, and social justice leaders; the facilitation of three community dialogues with over hundreds of participants; tabling at community events to meet people where they were already gathering; media outreach; and an online and paper survey for Louisville community members which was promoted via Louisville’s website, newsletter and social media. 

For the community dialogue sessions, three different locations and times were chosen for the community dialogue sessions in order to reach as many community members as possible. One of the locations chosen was in an area most impacted by climate change and faced historic and current systemic injustices. Climate Access partnered with local groups to publicize and host the dialogues. In the sessions, participants worked together to determine the most critical climate risks and prioritize solutions that should be included in the adaptation plan. To thank them for their participation and equip them with tools for taking action, participants could take home native trees with planting instructions, emergency preparedness kits and tips, access to energy efficiency and home retrofit programs including for low income community members. 

Listening to the Community

As a response effort to the community’s concerns and the reality of climate change in the city and ideas for prioritizing solutions, the Louisville Climate Action Plan named some of the following actions: 

  • Target tree canopy efforts in high-heat neighborhoods 
  • Organize and coordinate community communication systems for efficient response
  • Provide shelter at public places such as bus stops, parks, etc. 
  • Reduce non-permeable and heat-absorbing surfaces (e.g., de-paving unneeded parking lots, brownfield sites, etc.) 
  • Increase availability and access of community cooling centers, (e.g., public pools, spray grounds, etc.)  
  • Install public drinking fountains in areas of high vulnerability 
  • Create heat stress action plan that accounts for climate change projections 
  • Explore cooling opportunities via Louisville’s natural aquifer 
  • Notify the community of flood risks and provide transportation for evacuating high risk areas
  • Notification of leaks from chemical facilities during floods 
  • Provide homeowner grants in areas where resilience efforts are focused to avoid dislocation of current residents

Through the engagement process, Climate Access was able to learn how a broad range of Louisville residents feel about the effects of climate change in their communities and what solutions are important to them and include these perspectives in the plan development. As a result, Louisville Metro Government’s climate adaptation plan emphasizes addressing the needs of those most at risk to the impacts of climate change with a focus on those who have and continue to face systemic injustices including economic and racial inequity.