Last Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner revealed plans for a multi-billion-dollar initiative designed to prepare the city against future climate change-related disasters. The 186-page document, Resilient Houston, elaborates on methods the coastal city can adopt to become better prepared for future storms, sea-level rise, and the urban heat island effect. “Houston, as the energy capital of the world, must lead the global energy transition,” Turner writes in the document’s introduction. “If we do not, we will jeopardize our regional economy and prosperity for generations of Houstonians.”
To address the 667-square-mile city as a whole, Resilient Houston is divided into five scales: people, neighborhoods, bayous, the city, and the region. Each scale is met with a number of corresponding goals that includes “expanding access to wealth-building and employment opportunities,” “building up, not out, to promote smart growth as Houston’s population increases,” and “transforming city government to operationalize resilience and build trust.” The plan also proposes the planting of 4.6 million trees throughout the city, the removal or replacement of homes in particularly flood-prone areas, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Preparation for Resilient Houston began shortly after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the city in August 2017. “One year after Harvey,” Turner explained, “we were not only focused on our recovery, but on the transformative change that comes from thinking and acting holistically to build and grow our long-term resilience.” The city received a direct allocation of $61 million following the development of a climate change resiliency proposal in November 2017 that called for enhanced infrastructure measures and the buying out homes in especially vulnerable areas of the Houston-Galveston region.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the plan was pushed forward in the last year thanks to the recent appointment of Marissa Aho as the City’s Chief Resilience Officer last February. Aho previously helped craft a resiliency plan for Los Angeles, a city with a population density and reliance on automobiles similar to that of Houston. With a $1.8 million grant from Shell Oil, Resilient Houston allowed the city to gain membership in the 100 Resilient Cities, a program developed by The Rockefeller Foundation that provided funding, capacity building, and technical assistance for climate change resiliency around the world before concluding in July 2019.