Why Local Businesses Need Climate Adaptation Legislation
By Tim Cronin, Policy Associate
After Hurricane Sandy, 25-30% of small businesses impacted by the storm were forced to permanently close their doors. We watched as the lights went out in our nation’s economic powerhouse and storm surges overtook the city’s storefronts. Small businesses are an important part of local economies and have unique challenges when it comes to climate change preparation. If a similarly devastating storm was to strike Massachusetts, the impacts may have serious consequences for our small businesses.
A key solution to this looming risk is passing the Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) bill that currently sits before our state legislature. Last September, Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569, which allowed regions and municipalities to utilize state resources to create adaptation plans specific for their projected climate impacts. While these resources are a clear step forward in creating resilient communities in the commonwealth, passing legislation would codify planning efforts in law and create additional programs to help residents adapt. If passed, CAMP would establish a proactive, integrated, and long-term approach to ensuring our communities, economic assets, and investments are resilient against the impacts of climate change.
Why Local Business Needs an Adaptation Program
The small business community has unique challenges when it comes to climate change. Small businesses simply do not possess the human and financial capital needed to protect infrastructure required for business continuity. Because of this, they are especially vulnerable and can suffer lasting economic damage as a result of a single extreme weather event.
The communication, supply, and revenue challenges associated with such storms are barriers to reopening for many businesses, as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of businesses that shut down after Hurricane Sandy.
A climate change adaptation program would not only directly improve the security of business services, but would also provide businesses with the necessary information to better understand the local impacts of climate change and how they can prepare. In this way the state can help ensure long-term economic viability by reducing the number of business days lost each year.
CABA and Climate Change Mitigation
In the summer of 2016, CABA conducted our Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (BARS) campaign durring which we traveled to high-risk coastal communities across the Greater Boston area and the North and South Shores to educate Massachusetts’ small businesses on the threats of rising sea levels and extreme weather.
We worked with over 500 businesses in this process and surveyed more than 200 on their climate preparedness levels. The results were concerning; a stark 80% of the businesses surveyed were not prepared for an extreme weather event.
In addition to the impacts on small businesses, climate change poses a massive threat to the Massachusetts economy as a whole. Boston is expected to see $237 million in annual economic losses due to coastal flooding, representing serious implications for developers, insurers, and property owners.
Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) legislation (S.2196) before Massachusetts lawmakers seeks to reduce the damage done by climate change fueled storms in Boston and across Massachusetts. It does so by providing a comprehensive plan for establishing goals, priorities and principles to ensure the resiliency, preservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s built and natural environment from the risks of climate change.
Highlights of CAMP include:
- Establish and commit to sound management practices that take into account existing natural, built, and economic characteristics of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable areas and human populations.
- Compile data on existing and projected sea level rise across the state.
- Produce a report documenting the preparedness and vulnerabilities in the Commonwealth’s emergency response, energy, transportation, communications, health, and other systems.
- Establish an interagency advisory committee supported by technical subcommittees and staff to carry out the plan.
- Establish a grant program to provide financial assistance to regional planning agencies for the development and implementation of CAMP, including vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy development.
What You Can Do
CAMP legislation is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate before it moves to the House chamber.
To support state-wide adaptation legislation you can contact your representative and let them know you want to see CAMP reported favorably out of committee.
To learn more about how to make your local business more adaptive, resilient, and sustainable become a member of the Climate Action Business Association.
About the author: Tim is an economics and politics student at Stonehill College. This past year he had the opportunity to study at Oxford University, exploring global governance, human rights law, and int’l economics. As a senior, Tim will serve as student-body president and continue to fight for sustainable initiatives such as fossil fuel divestment and expanding the college’s solar farm. He has interned at the State House and serves on the board of his local civic association. Tim enjoys reading The Economist, listening to podcasts, and exploring state parks in his free time.