Climate Crossroads: California’s Readiness to Act on Climate Resilience

The California Resilience Partnership recently released “Climate Crossroads: California’s Readiness to Act on Climate Resilience

The California Resilience Partnership recently released “Climate Crossroads: California’s Readiness to Act on Climate Resilience.”

The report lays out six core recommendations detailing how the State’s historic investment of $3.7 billion for climate resilience might best reach and be most effective in communities most in need of this funding. Working with Resilient Cities CatalystCivicWell, and an amazing working group of California climate leaders, the Farallon Strategies team helped synthesize a diverse set of voices and sources to help decision-makers maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity. 

CRP is working to disseminate the report through briefings and distribution, and we are hopeful it will contribute to the needed paradigm shift in funding we need in California and beyond. With the announcement of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, and the potential for a robust national climate investment, we think it’s also worth unpacking some of the underlying sources and elements as they provide an additional depth of perspective, offer regional nuance, and provide analytic approaches that can be applied to the development of policies and programs in California and across the US.

More effective support for climate resilience will require mechanisms for funding and support that can span a wide variety of scales, issues, and perspectives. The research and analysis that resulted in our report sought to identify where and how to bring that forward. To arrive at the final recommendations, the research team worked with an Ad Hoc Working Group of climate and community leaders across the state, engaged in deep stakeholder engagement across nine California regions, and conducted a robust desktop analysis of 14 different State program grant guidelines and other sources of information.

This approach resulted in a broad-based synthesis from hundreds of local, regional, State perspectives on the range of challenges and shortcomings with current resilience funding, regional collaboration and governance vehicles. As such, it provides a backbone perspective informed by widespread community-level input. In diagnosing the current landscape (a pre-condition for defining new mechanisms, several general themes stand out: 

  • Capacity: Across scales from community based organizations (CBOs) to regional organizations, many institutions need greater capacity to be able to adequately address climate resilience and equity concerns. Baseline capacity is frequently a barrier to even accessing and managing funding, in addition to the actual implementation.

  • Alignment: Throughout the State, jurisdictions are missing opportunities to align their planning and implementation processes for more cohesive approaches to resilience.

  • Community Building: Many areas and jurisdictions need to invest in building trust with their local communities and with each other at the regional scale. Building more collaborative partnerships is necessary to facilitate planning and project alignment and maximize the benefits of climate and equity efforts.

  • Equity: A critical topic at all levels in California, equity has received much attention, yet many grant programs, governance mechanisms, and partnerships struggle to mainstream equity in their institutions and programming.

What was unique about this project and our approach (and results) is that existing sources (the desktop research) were all conducted in the absence of specific opportunities, and as such, lacked a focus on specifically informing design of funding streams in order to realize impact. With this in mind, our approach in key areas are worth calling out since they were specifically intended to surface design and implementation recommendations for funding programs. We don’t want to dive into the specifics here but simply want to call attention to the depth of the underlying research and shine a light on some key elements that we believe can be a resource for further application in California and we hope nationally.

  • Funding characteristics: One of our first steps was to review the existing literature to identify gaps in funding approaches. This led to the creation of a profile of 14 funding characteristics within 3 groups. This profile describes characteristics that ideally should be present to realize the greatest catalytic impact from funding programs. Not only was this useful tool for analyzing existing grant programs (including finding strengths and gaps), but the resulting “rubric” can (and should) serve as a guide for development of future funding programs, so we are aiming for the best outcomes from the outset. Additionally by creating a common vocabulary for design, it can foster better alignment across funding streams.
  • Funding distribution analysis: California has already invested a significant amount of money in addressing climate change, principally through a set of bonds and the California Climate Investments (CCI). We set out to identify the distribution patterns of this funding in order to better understand what had been done and where. The gaps and challenges we found in collating this data were significant. Billions of dollars in funding have not been tracked consistently, nor characterized in ways that allow for statewide analysis of impact and benefit. While we were able to identify a high-level picture of the funding distribution, the challenge in getting there and the many unanswered questions provide a roadmap for how to set up investments so as to better ensure the intended benefits are realized when and for whom they are intended.
  • Stakeholder input: The CRP team was fortunate through this project to be able to talk directly with hundreds of people representing individual, community, and organizational perspectives. We also reviewed results of two state feedback processes and conducted our own survey. There’s much in the final report that draws together themes and stories from this work. But the depth of regional perspectives, subtle differences in need, and gaps in voices represented are worth considering on their own. This section of the full report provides a wealth of content that can help inform regional actions and follow-on feedback needs. It also points to the lack of consistency and cohesion among existing feedback processes – if we don’t know why we’re asking questions we fall into the trap of asking the same questions and not acting on the answers. This process for our team helped illuminate that challenge and ideally suggests tactics and methods that can be applied in future feedback efforts to strengthen their application and impact. 

Throughout the full report and in the appendix, there are more specific findings, detailed recommendations, regional breakouts, and analytic resources to draw. For anyone developing programs, coordinating funding, or evaluating impact and benefit, there’s a wealth in here that we hope can raise the bar at this critical moment when significant investments might help us turn the ship. If you need help navigating what our findings mean for the work you do don’t hesitate to reach out to any member of our team.

Authors: Kif Scheuer and Michael McCormick

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