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Understanding Climate Resilience in the Midst of COVID

Over the past year, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fourth Economy team has been thinking more and more about resilience – both economic and environmental. We’ve shared ideas and information that has inspired us, and worked with clients that are tackling economic resilience head-on. Economic resilience refers to a community's ability to effectively manage its stressors and recover from a shock. We have also been fortunate to work with three organizations leading efforts to adapt to the changing environment, while also supporting people transitioning to new ways of managing energy, stormwater, and natural systems.

Smart Infrastructure and Equitable Development

Most recently, we were engaged by the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia to analyze the impacts of investments in Green Stormwater Infrastructure. The report, Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI): A Tool for Economic Recovery and Growth in Pennsylvania, assesses the industry’s growth from 2011 to 2019, evaluates stormwater management needs and opportunities in urban and rural areas throughout the state, and provides policy recommendations to strengthen further and grow GSI infrastructure investment.

This report illustrates how leaders’ vision and commitment 10-years prior to focus on a new stormwater management model has led to significant economic impacts and has even greater potential. The chart below shows the state’s GSI industry growth of 13.3% from 2011-2019 compared to the state’s overall growth of 6.3%. While these numbers are impressive, our analysis looked deeper and illustrated that the green storm water management industry also created more local jobs and lead to more equitable development.

We recognize that changing the status quo of stormwater management would be challenging for any community, but we also believe that it is necessary to contemplate new approaches, especially when they offer clear opportunity to support in-state job growth and community benefits.

Changing Opinions and Better Economic Impacts

Last year the Nature Conservancy in Indiana engaged Fourth Economy and our partners at Bellwether Research to conduct public polling on climate change and clean energy issues in Indiana. In addition, we produced an economic impact assessment and case statement to understand and demonstrate the role of increased investment in clean energy and other climate actions for Indiana’s economic future.

Our analysis demonstrated that adding more renewable energy will promote more energy security, where decentralized renewable energy generation makes the state less reliant on a few large generators. In addition, we found that investing in clean energy and natural climate solutions in Indiana will:

  • Accelerate leadership to generate economic benefits for farmers, taxpayers, and more

  • Retain investment capital and attract out-of-state investors

  • Support a triple bottom line and limit negative environmental impacts for those living in proximity to fossil fuel supported power plants

And the polling conducted by Bellwether Research confirmed that Hoosiers recognize climate change’s impact and they want the state’s leaders to act. Findings include:

  • While Hoosier voters are less likely than voters nationally to say they are concerned about climate change, 59% say climate change is having an impact in Indiana in terms of more severe or unusual weather events.

  • 81% of Hoosier voters think Indiana can take steps to protect the environment without harming the economy.

  • 66% of voters support requiring that Indiana get 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

This report is informing elected and administrative officials as they review the existing regulations and programs related to clean energy and natural climate solutions.

Next Generation Stewardship of a Catalytic Amenity

A significant component of Pittsburgh’s renaissance is its recognition of its rivers and their adjacent property being a natural asset that deserves stewardship. Over a series of years, the organization Riverlife led the charge to create a 15-mile, 880-acre park that is an open access amenity for all Pittsburgh residents and visitors to experience.

Their work has been catalytic in facilitating over $4B in riverfront and river-adjacent development, and they continue to plan for what’s next. The Completing the Loop effort has assessed that 15% of the loop requires investment to improve one or more attributes.

Riverlife engaged Fourth Economy to create a financial model and tool to understand the ongoing maintenance costs and one-time enhancements that will be needed to have a world-class trail and park system. The properties along the loop are currently owned and maintained by a mix of government authorities, and private owners. Through engagement with these entities, we were able to assess the maintenance costs, frequency, approach, and more. The information supported the development of an interactive tool to assess what an improved maintenance program would cost. This will allow Riverlife to have informed discussions with community leaders and property owners regarding how to approach the next generation of Pittsburgh’s river and public space stewardship.


Interested in digging deeper into environmental and economic resilience challenges and opportunities in your own community? We’d love to help — reach out to us!


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