Climate Resilience Challenge Guidance and Resources


The Climate Resilience Challenge provides funding for plans and projects that mitigate and adapt to climate change in order to increase community-level resilience. Questions about climate adaptation and mitigation continue to arise as Colorado communities learn more about the impacts climate change will have on them, and how they can reduce those impacts. We hope the following guidance and resources outline approaches to better understand community-level climate resilience that will make your application to the Climate Resilience Challenge (or other climate-related funds) more competitive.

Contents Include:
1. Overview of Selection Criteria and Awards To-Date
2. Climate Action Plans (CAPs)
3. Climate Adaptation Projects
4. Climate Mitigation Projects

Overview of Selection Criteria

The Climate Resilience Challenge promotes and integrates climate resilience projects that capture multiple objectives across: (1) climate adaptation and (2) climate mitigation solutions, and (3) social equity by addressing the most high-risk vulnerabilities for their community or region. The following venn diagram showcases a sampling of approaches that previous Climate Resilience Challenge awardees took in order to meet this multi-objective requirements of the Challenge. A most competitive project would include all of the below.

A venn diagram with three concentric circles. Description below.

The venn diagram above has three concentric circles. The first circle reads “Climate Mitigation” with the example of “Energy efficient construction/upgrades (in addition to leveraging Energy Performance Contracting for financing).” The second circle reads “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA)” with the example of “Resiliency hub/community center serving the most vulnerable communities in the region.” The third circle reads “Climate Adaptation” with the example of “Reduces high-risk climate impacts (e.g., drought, wildfire, flood, extreme heat).” The overlap between Climate Adaptation and Climate Mitigation circles provides the example of “Solar & Battery Backup & Agrivoltaics.” The overlap between IDEA and Climate Mitigation circles provides the example of “Renewables and transit-oriented development for an affordable housing development.”

Applications are reviewed based on how they account for each of the following objectives, using the following “stoplight” approach with red (1) being the least competitive and green (3) being the most competitive. Applications that are not competitive for the Climate Resilience Challenge may be moved to the regular EIAF Program grant review, which will require a 50% match rate.

Climate Resilience Challenge Rubric

Existing Climate Action Plan

  • Red: Has some existing climate planning, but the plans are either >5 years old or exclude climate mitigation or climate adaptation.
  • Yellow: Existing plans are <5 years old and relate to climate mitigation and adaptation.
  • Green: The jurisdiction has holistic plan(s) that are <5 years old and relate to climate mitigation (and includes a greenhouse gas inventory), adaptation (includes a vulnerability assessment that includes social, economic, environmental, and infrastructure risks and vulnerabilities).

Climate Mitigation

  • Red: Project does not reduce greenhouse gasses
  • Yellow: Project reduces greenhouse gasses 
  • Green: Project reduces greenhouse gasses and is maximizing other climate mitigation financing such as Energy Performance Contracting and grants

Climate Adaptation

  • Red: Project does not integrate climate adaptation elements
  • Yellow: Project reduces climate impacts, though how the project ties to broader climate adaptation plans and strategies for the region may not be clear.
  • Green: Project clearly reduces priority climate impacts from the region, referencing plans that cite the climate threat.

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA)

  • Red: Project does not identify or serve a vulnerable community group
  • Yellow: Project reduces vulnerabilities to a community group
  • Green: Project reduces vulnerabilities or serves the most disproportionately impacted communities in the region, which is defined by a data-informed source such as Colorado EnviroScreen.

Project Examples from Previous Awards

The following project summaries highlight approaches that two awardees of Climate Resilience Challenge took.

Project Name: Fort Collins Southeast Community Recreation Center

Award: $2M
Climate Resilience Challenge Achievements:

  • Climate mitigation: Most current energy efficient building codes, solar panels, and EV infrastructure
  • Climate adaptation: Serves as a communication hub and resource during a community emergency. Battery storage to ensure energy reliability.
  • IDEA: Serves an at-risk population; within 2 miles of the largest mobile home park in Fort Collins and within a mile from a newly established affordable homes neighborhood. 
  • Multi-objective (mitigation, adaptation, and IDEA): Accessibility to bike and pedestrian facilities for active mode users. Facility is proposed to be connected to the regional trail system by 2024.

Project Name: Louisville Recreation & Senior Center Resiliency Hub

Award: $2.5M
Climate Resilience Challenge Achievements:

  • Climate mitigation: Decarbonization through mechanical electrification, a ground-mounted solar agrivoltaic system, energy efficiency measures and EV charging infrastructure
  • Climate adaptation: Red Cross designated shelter; agrivoltaic elements provides native pollinator habitats; firewise/drought resistant landscaping
  • IDEA: Serves as a community hub offering daily meals and preschool services for marginalized populations.

Climate Action Plans (CAPs)

A CAP is a comprehensive tool outlining specific actions that a community will undertake and can encompass (1) reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and/or (2) adapt to the impacts caused by a changing climate. When a CAP addresses both GHG mitigation as well as climate adaptation, it is referred to as an “integrated CAP.”

Plans that focus on mitigation generally include a “greenhouse gas inventory” that establishes a baseline understanding of which sectors are producing greenhouse gas emissions and how much they’re contributing. From there, communities can target sector-based mitigation priorities, goals, and strategies for cutting emissions.

Plans that focus on adaptation identify risks and generally include a “vulnerability assessment,” which can include social, economic, environmental, and infrastructure risks and vulnerabilities that a community faces currently and into the future. Similar to the greenhouse gas inventory, the vulnerability assessment sets a baseline understanding from which to target adaptation priorities, goals, and strategies for increasing the adaptive capacity and climate resilience of the region.

Examples of CAPs

CAPs may cover a single municipality, a county, or be more regional in scope. See the list of Colorado Climate Action Plans to view examples of various kinds of CAPs. The list also includes Clean Energy Plans and Sustainability Plans in Colorado.

Recommended Resources

For linking climate mitigation and adaptation in a planning process, the following resource is helpful:

For conducting GHG Inventories, the following tools are helpful:

For conducting climate vulnerability assessments, the following tools are helpful:

  • Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) Assessment Tool – Provides an interactive application that provides statistics, maps, and reports that can help people document their climate exposure, now (with real time data) and in the future (with projections).
  • The following tools map social vulnerabilities:
    • Colorado EnviroScreen – An interactive environmental justice mapping tool and health screening tool for Colorado.
    • Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) – A geospatial mapping tool that identifies areas across the nation where communities are faced with significant burdens. These burdens are organized into eight categories: climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, and workforce development.

Climate Adaptation Projects

Climate adaptation projects can include a wide range of actions that impact the social, economic, environmental, and infrastructure resilience of a region. Some of the most prevalent climate adaptation solutions are explained below within the categories of hazard mitigation, nature-based solutions/green infrastructure, and resilience hubs.

Hazard Mitigation

Projects that address high-risk hazards and build or rebuild in a way that reduces, or mitigates, future disaster losses in Colorado communities. Types of hazard mitigation projects may include:

Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) Implementation and Enforcement

  • Acquisition of hazard prone homes and businesses which enable owners to relocate to safer areas (acquisition).
  • Post-disaster code enforcement.

High Hazard Protection and Risk Reduction

  • Protecting structures from flooding through the installation of permanent barriers to prevent floodwater from entering (levees, floodwalls, floodproofing); elevating structures above known flood levels to prevent and reduce losses (elevation); reconstructing a damaged dwelling on an elevated foundation to prevent and reduce future flood losses; or drainage improvement projects to reduce flooding (flood risk reduction projects).
  • Protecting structures located in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) from wildfires through natural resources management practices (adding defensible space, forest thinning); utilizing fire resistant materials and landscaping; etc.
  • Using drought resistant landscaping to mitigate Colorado’s deepening drought issues and across the state.

Retrofitting Existing Infrastructure

  • Structural retrofits to make buildings or other infrastructure more resistant to floods, earthquakes, wind, wildfire and other natural hazards.
  • Retrofits to utilities and other infrastructure to enhance resistance to natural hazards.

New Construction

  • Construction of resiliency hubs in areas prone to high risk disasters and serving vulnerable communities (see “Resiliency hubs” below)
  • Slope stabilization projects to prevent and reduce losses to structures.

Additional hazards mitigation resources include:

  • Other funding opportunities that relate to hazard mitigation include FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Programs, all of which have the common goal of reducing or eliminating long-term risk to people and property from future disasters.
  • The Planning for Hazards: Land Use Solutions for Colorado enables counties and municipalities to prepare for and mitigate multiple hazards by integrating resilience and hazard mitigation principles into plans, codes, and standards related to land use and the built environment. This guide provides detailed, Colorado-specific information about how to assess a community’s risk level to hazards and how to implement numerous land use planning tools and strategies for reducing a community’s risk.

Nature-Based Solutions & Green Infrastructure

Nature-based solutions to climate change involve conserving, restoring, or better managing ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while also providing benefits to human well-being and ecosystem/habitats. Similarly, “green infrastructure” provides a network of nature or semi-natural areas and green space that deliver ecosystem services, climate adaptation capacity, human well-being, and economic co-benefits.

Some of the purposes and benefits of nature-based solutions and green infrastructure include:

  • Natural hazard mitigation, such as in reducing risks from extreme heat, wildfire, floods
  • Soil health and carbon sequestration
  • Water quality (e.g., pollution remediation) and quantity (e.g., drought resilience) improvements
  • Habitat/ecosystem restoration and protection, including soil health improvements

The National Wildlife Federation maintains the Nature-Based Solutions Funding Database for communities interested in pursuing federal funding and/or technical assistance for green infrastructure and other nature-based solutions.

Resiliency Hubs

Resiliency hubs are physical spaces that serve as community centers for education, services, and community capacity. During emergencies, resiliency hubs may be activated to distribute resources and coordinate response and recovery services during, before, and after disasters - wildfires, floods, heat-related events, and power outages. Resiliency hubs often leverage existing trusted community spaces such as recreation centers, schools, libraries, and faith-based organizations and ensure they have the necessary resources and infrastructure to successfully respond during and after extreme events. The Urban Sustainability Directors Network has a Guide to Developing Resilience Hubs that is relevant to both urban and rural communities.

Climate Mitigation Projects

Climate mitigation projects span renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation solutions. The Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap is a State-level climate action plan that focuses on climate mitigation and shows Colorado’s sources of emissions and how to achieve the State’s goal of reducing emissions by 90% by 2050 from 2005 levels. Some of the key climate mitigation actions outlined in this plan are broken down in the following categories:

  • Electric generation: Continue swift transition away from coal to renewable electricity
  • Transportation - vehicles: Accelerate the shift to electric cars, trucks and buses
  • Transportation - land use: Make changes to transportation planning and investment and land use planning to encourage alternatives to driving
  • Built environment: Increase building efficiency and electrification
  • Methane emissions: Reduce methane waste from landfills, waste water and other sources

The Colorado Energy Office, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy, offers a wealth of resources on approaches to mitigating climate change.

Additional climate mitigation can be achieved through land use management, for example through smart growth principles that reduce emissions from transportation. For example, see the DOLA Strong Communities Program and More Housing Now Land Use Initiative.


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