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Prioritizing Climate Equity: A Qualitative Analysis of the Massachusetts MVP Program

The Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program (MVP Program) has funded Community Resilience Building workshops in hundreds of communities over the past 6 years. The Planning Reports produced by these workshops offer valuable insight into the climate adaptation and climate justice priorities of Massachusetts municipalities. Climate justice literature holds that the impacts of climate change will be disproportionately felt by marginalized communities, and those addressing climate change should address the risks faced by those communities, referred to as Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities in Massachusetts. Using an inductive qualitative coding approach, this study analyzes 30 Planning Reports from towns with High, Medium and Low presence of EJ populations. The analysis found that the MVP program has been effective at incentivizing towns to plan for future climate change hazards, by gating funding for immediate projects behind a long-term planning process. The study also found that town Planning Reports tend to prioritize flooding adaptation and prevention over other climate hazards, even hazards that are externally reported to pose greater risk to the community. Finally, when discussing the protection of vulnerable populations, towns tend to define “vulnerable” narrowly as elderly populations, although some High-EJ towns broaden that definition to include other marginalized populations. The findings offer insight into the effectiveness of the MVP program for other states who might use it as a model. The findings can also demonstrate how municipalities in Massachusetts and beyond are planning to use climate adaptation funding as it is made available.
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