In the pursuit of a more climate-resilient future, collaboration, expertise and adequate planning are essential. When communities are aware of their risks and vulnerabilities, they will be better prepared for an uncertain future. In partnership with Climate Resolve, Farallon Strategies contributed to shaping the recent report titled “Ounce of Prevention: Advancing Equitable Climate Resilience Planning in California.” This report delves into the implementation of Senate Bill 379 (SB-379) in California and offers insights into the state’s ongoing journey toward equitable climate resilience.
The report underscores the significance of SB-379, enacted in 2015, to mandate climate change preparedness through updates to municipal general plans. This bill required that every city and county in California incorporate climate adaptation into their planning documents by January 2022. This report sheds light on the challenges faced by municipalities in meeting the compliance deadline and the variety of ways in which municipalities chose to comply with the mandate. With only half of California’s municipalities meeting the requirements, this compliance gap prompts critical discussions about the state’s readiness to address the intensifying effects of climate change and the resources that municipalities need to adequately prepare themselves.
A central theme of the report is the need for equitable climate resilience planning. It highlights the interconnectedness of climate change and socioeconomic factors, emphasizing the vulnerability of marginalized communities, as well as the challenges of incorporating equity in an unfunded planning process, especially in smaller municipalities. It highlights that a one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient; instead, climate action must address the unique needs and challenges faced by different communities. The report also outlines the different pathways jurisdictions have taken to comply with SB 379, along with findings on the current and potential role of regional agencies in the climate planning process.
The report calls for a shift in climate policies toward inclusivity and proactive measures, particularly to uplift marginalized communities, and elevates examples of how municipalities have moved their processes toward inclusivity. It advocates for strategies that bridge the gap between climate action and social equity, stressing the importance of community engagement, targeted interventions, and policies that empower vulnerable populations.
The report provides recommendations that aim to guide California’s efforts in addressing capacity constraints, streamlining planning processes, funding climate initiatives, and ensuring comprehensive climate adaptation plans are developed across various jurisdiction sizes.
The first recommendation involves addressing the capacity crisis experienced by various entities at all levels of planning. It suggests investing in workforce development and retention, amending legislation to allow regional or statewide climate analyses for vulnerability assessments, providing sustainable funding for plan development, supporting existing climate collaboratives and technical assistance programs, and implementing the recommendations from the California Resilience Partnership.
The second recommendation focuses on creating efficiencies of scale in adaptation planning. It proposes appropriate distribution of adaptation planning work between local and regional levels, providing specific plan alignment guidance, developing effective partnership models, and designating review authority for compliance.
The third recommendation pertains to funding climate planning at the local level. It recommends renewing the Adaptation Planning Grant Program, allowing flexibility in funding for local climate planning, leveraging private philanthropy, and renewing funding for technical assistance programs.
The fourth and final recommendation encourages robust climate adaptation plans. It suggests different approaches based on jurisdiction size, with larger municipalities developing standalone climate adaptation plans, mid-sized jurisdictions updating general plans and LHMPs, and smaller jurisdictions utilizing external resources or collaborating with nearby areas. Regional plans are also seen as a potential solution for future alignment.
Ultimately, the “Ounce of Prevention” report serves as a planning roadmap for California’s journey toward effective and equitable climate resilience, highlighting the urgent need to amplify the voices of vulnerable communities, improve policy effectiveness, and prioritize collaboration to build a more resilient and sustainable future for all Californians.