Wonky Wednesday: “As the climate changes, so must California”
“As the climate changes, so must California,” with the reality of sea-level rise bringing a wave of change to coastal planning around the world. That observation, taken from the State of California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS), was how I kicked off an article recently published in the National Wetlands Newsletter. The article reviewed two groundbreaking policies in California around adaptation to rising sea levels: the CAS, followed by a contentious process around the creation of a climate change plan by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
The CAS proposed to be “a comprehensive set of recommendations designed to inform and guide California decision makers as they begin to develop policies that will protect the state, its residents and its resources from a range of climate change impacts.” A central goal was to ensure a place for adaptation planning, rather than only mitigation, in the climate change policy discussion. In the wake of the CAS, BCDC took up and finalized a climate change amendment to the San Francisco Bay Plan. The result was discussed briefly by our Executive Director here.
In the article, I reviewed these groundbreaking Bay Area planning developments for lessons for coastal planners around the world grappling with similar issues, and focused in on the resistance of entrenched interests to these new realities. Unfortunately for the Bay Area’s planning process, BCDC’s work was perceived as a threat to Cargill’s massive bay fill development. Cargill’s developer DMB Associates spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying around BCDC’s planning effort, leaving the new policies less clear than would be ideal. But I concluded that BCDC’s updated San Francisco Bay Plan discourages new development in undeveloped, vulnerable low-lying areas, and encourages new wetland restoration instead.
- Stephen Knight, Political Director