This page provides an overview of the actions California is taking to support adaptation efforts at the local level.
Several laws have been enacted in California to require local governments to consider climate adaptation in local plans. In October 2015, the state legislature passed SB 379 requiring all cities and counties to include climate adaptation and resilience strategies in the safety plans of local land-use plans (known as “general plans”) beginning in January 2017. In September 2016, the legislature passed SB 1000 requiring cities and counties to also add an environmental justice element to their local general plans, including policies to reduce health risks in disadvantaged communities by reducing pollution exposure, improving air quality, or other means.
The state has also adopted mandates to require building practices that enhance energy and water efficiency, reducing strain on energy systems and water supply in the state. In 2013, the California Building Standards Commission updated the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) establishing minimum green building standards for new residential and non-residential construction in California. The regulations are designed to make buildings more efficient and to reduce environmental impacts during and after construction. Standards include best construction practices for energy efficiency, water efficiency and conservation, materials, stormwater drainage and retention, and environmental quality.
Similarly, regional water agencies are making progress meeting state requirements to include consideration of climate change in Integrated Regional Water Management Plans (as required by SB 1672). The state has provided over $1 billion in grants to support development of Integrated Regional Water Management Plans (IRWMPs) and to establish regional water management agencies. The state has also conducted outreach to water managers and developed recommendations for how to improve regional water management and planning in the report, Stakeholder Perspectives: Recommendations for Sustaining and Strengthening Integrated Regional Water Management (March 2017). The report notes that IRWMPs have been developed to cover 87 percent of the state’s geographic area and 99 percent of the state’s population. Many of these plans have been updated to consider future climate impacts on water supply and water-dependent natural resources.
Guidance, Planning and Tools
Recommendations in both the 2009 and 2014 plan call on state agencies to develop guidance to encourage local governments to consider climate impacts and adaptation strategies in local plans affecting land use and development (e.g., general plans, hazard mitigation plans, and local coastal plans). And these recommendations were reinforced by state legislation mandating consideration of climate impacts in local plans. To inform local planning, state agencies have published many resources and guides to help local governments incorporate considerations of climate impact in local plans and identify adaptation strategies.
In 2012, the state released the California Adaptation Planning Guide, which guides regional and local governments through a step-by-step process for assessing local and regional vulnerabilities, defining regional characteristics, and developing adaptation strategies. In August 2017, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research published updated General Plan Guidelines to help local governments implement requirements to integrate considerations of climate change into the Safety Elements of local General Plans (SB 379) and consideration of environmental justice (SB 1000). The California Natural Resources Agency also developed a Storybook of adaptation case studies from across the state and across sectors, including case studies about the use of cool roofs in Sacramento, drought response in Watsonville, and an education and outreach project in Ventura.
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has built the Cal-Adapt website in coordination with California Energy Commission, University of California Berkeley, and Google. The online tool allows users to identify potential climate change risks in specific geographic areas and model likely impacts for certain regions.
In October 2015, the legislature passed SB 246, creating an Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program (ICARP). Administered by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), ICARP is designed to coordinate state support for regional and local adaptation efforts and emphasize climate equity considerations. The program directs state agencies to provide support to local and regional decisionmakers through the development of tools and guidance, coordinated state agency support, and grant programs. SB 246 also created a technical advisory council to support implementation and called for the development and maintenance of an adaptation clearinghouse to provide the most current science, projections, models, white papers, case studies, and tools. The clearinghouse — ResilientCA.org — was launched in 2018.
Coastal: The California Coastal Commission has also developed guidance to help local governments address threats from sea-level rise through local coastal plans (LCPs). In 2015, the California Coastal Commission published Sea-Level Rise Policy Guidance to provide recommendations for using the best available science on sea-level rise in LCPs. And in March 2018, the Commission issued draft Residential Adaptation Policy Guidance, which is meant to be a companion document to the 2015 guidance to help local governments address sea-level rise through LCPs. The guidance prioritizes policies for preserving beaches and minimizing hard armoring to protect development. To develop its recommendations, the Commission relied on sea-level-rise guidance released by the state Ocean Protection Council in 2010 and updated in 2013 to incorporate the best-available science for incorporating consideration of future sea-level-rise scenarios in planning decisions. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (with jurisdiction over coastal areas in the nine-county San Francisco Bay region) has been supporting sea-level rise vulnerability assessments and planning through the Adapting to Rising Tides program and updated the San Francisco Bay Plan (governing coastal development in the Bay Area) to incorporate considerations of climate change in October 2011. The State Coastal Conservancy also supported the Bay Area Resilient by Design challenge to spur the development of innovative solutions for enhancing the resilience of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable communities and bay landscapes. Fifty-one multi multidisciplinary teams worked with local governments and community groups to develop resilience solutions and in May 2018, ten teams winning designs were selected.
California provides a number of other data sources and tools to help local governments respond to sea-level rise. In 2014, a California Collaborative on Coastal Resilience (CCCR) was established to pilot a process for bringing the resources and expertise of state agencies together in support of local and regional adaptation initiatives in the Humboldt County region. CCCR’s pilot project supported shoreline mapping and the development of sea-level-rise adaptation strategies. The state has also invested in collection of high-resolution elevation data for the California coast and the San Francisco Bay. The Ocean Protection Council also developed an online database of sea-level rise adaptation initiatives (as required by AB 2516).
Emergency Preparedness: The California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is working with local governments to facilitate consideration of climate change in local hazard mitigation plans and emergency planning efforts. The state also hosts online tools to help local governments prepare for natural hazards. The MyPlan tool provides maps produced by the state’s Natural Resources Agency and other agencies to provide natural hazard data. The MyHazards tool is a website developed by the California Emergency Management Agency to help users generate hazard maps to facilitate adoption of local hazard mitigation plans, general plans, and local coastal plans. As of this update, climate information is not available through these tools; however, the California Office of Emergency Services has indicated that it is an agency priority to incorporate climate considerations into MyPlan and MyHazard to help local governments plan for increasing risks of natural hazards.
Energy: To help local governments prepare plans to assess the vulnerability of and enhance the resilience of energy systems, the California Energy Commission (CEC) developed the California Local Energy Assurance Planning (CaLEAP) tool. The CaLEAP Planning Tool is designed to help local governments develop Energy Assurance Plans (EAPs) (an emergency management plan that focus on the functionality of key energy assets). CEC has also funded studies on the exposure and vulnerabilities of California communities to climate impacts to energy systems. Studies used 19 indicators to create a climate vulnerability score (e.g. air conditioner ownership, tree cover, outdoor occupation) for each county, then ranked counties based upon social vulnerability.
Public Health: The 2009 Plan recommended that the state develop guidance to help local health departments and other agencies assess mitigation and adaptation strategies. The state developed the Integrating Public Health into Climate Action Planning report, which identifies mitigation and adaptation strategies and co-benefits. In October 2010, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) also completed a Guide for Health Impact Assessment, to provide public health professionals with information on how to assess the health impacts of proposed policies, projects and regulations, and the health impacts from proposed adaptation and mitigation policies. The California Air Resources Board also conducted a health impact assessment of California's Cap and Trade plan, which was published in December 2010. The California Adaptation Planning Guide also includes climate and public health considerations. The California Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (CalBRACE) program was also created to provide resources and tools to local health departments to support climate adaptation planning. A CalBRACE Climate Change and Health Profiles Report provides projected climate impacts affecting health risks (e.g., heat, sea-level rise, wildfires, drought, air quality) for all 58 counties in the state and vulnerability assessments for 11 counties. Through the Climate Change and Health Equity Program, the state is also working to address health disparities that exacerbate climate vulnerabilities for frontline communities. The state is also working to prepare communities for health impacts from extreme heat. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has hosted webinars to train local health departments and developed a guidance document on how to prepare for extreme heat. In August 2018, the California Department of Public Health helped to fund development of a guide, Climate Change, Health and Equity: A Guide for Local Health Department, to help local health departments integrate considerations of climate change and equity into public health programs and functions.
Water: The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued planning guidelines and a document clearinghouse to facilitate consideration of climate change in Integrated Regional Water Management Plans. In November 2011, DWR also issued a Climate Change Handbook for Regional Water Planning providing a framework for considering climate change in regional water management plans.
Transportation: In 2010, CalTrans published guidelines for metropolitan transportation organizations on how to incorporate climate adaptation into regional transportation plans.
Funding & Financing
In September 2016, the state legislature passed AB 2722 creating a competitive grant program — the Transformative Climate Communities Program — to support community planning to enhance sustainability and community resilience. The program is administered by the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) and competitive grants are awarded to help cities and counties develop and implement community plans that contribute to improved air and water quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and other climate, economic, workforce, health and environmental projects in disadvantaged communities. SGC has begun making grants to support community planning and urban greening initiatives through its Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, and SGC prioritizes projects that incorporate resilient design and projects in disadvantaged communities.
In September 2017, the California legislature passed AB 733, signed by Governor Brown on October 11, which authorizes the creation of “enhanced infrastructure financing districts” for climate change adaptation projects. AB 733 amended existing law governing municipal financing of infrastructure projects to specifically authorize financing for adaptation projects (“projects that enable communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change, including, but not limited to, higher average temperatures, decreased air and water quality, the spread of infectious and vector-borne diseases, other public health impacts, extreme weather events, sea level rise, flooding, heat waves, wildfires, and drought.”).
In September 2018, the California legislature passed AB 1072 enabling the Smart Growth Council to establish and fund "regional climate collaboratives" to provide technical assistance to under-resourced environmental justice and low-income communities to help lead community-driven engagement processes to develop and obtain funding for adaptation and mitigation projects.
The state has also been making grants to support adaptation across a range of sectors. For example, the State Coastal Conservancy, California Coastal Commission, and San Francisco Bay Conservancy and Development Commission are all funding projects to pilot the implementation of sea-level-rise guidance with local communities and to help them update their local coastal programs. The State Water Resources Control Board has offered grant funding to support integrated regional water management planning to consider future climate impacts to water supply and quality.
Local governments and regions are also passing bond measures to fund adaptation projects. In June 2016, the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area region voted in support of Measure AA approving a $12-per-year parcel tax, which will generate approximately $25 million annually to support marsh restoration projects and natural infrastructure projects to improve habitats and water quality in the bay, and enhance the resilience of Bay communities to sea-level rise and flooding. Similarly, Los Angeles County approved Measure A, in November 2016, approving a 1.5 cent per foot of development parcel tax to generate approximately $94 million annually for projects to mitigate urban heat islands by increasing green space and urban tree canopy. And Foster City approved Measure P, a $90 million bond measure to fund projects to reduce flood risks from sea-level rise.
The state Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) also coordinates with local governments through the Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Adaptation (ARCCA). ARCCA was formed in 2012 to bring together collaboratives of local governments from around the state that are working together on adaptation at the regional scale, including collaboratives in the greater metropolitan regions of San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and new Central Coast collaborative, and the Sierra CAMP (Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Partnership) collaborative bringing together rural jurisdictions in the Sierra Nevada region. California worked with the Sierra CAMP collaborative to develop the state’s winning National Disaster Resilience Competition proposal.
Education and Outreach and Technical Support
The state has support three California Adaptation Forums to provide learning opportunities for local governments on emerging trends in climate resilience work. The last forum was hosted in Sacramento in August 2018. In September 2018, Governor Brown convened climate leaders from around the world at the Global Climate Action Summit to show subnational progress on meeting the climate action goals of the Paris Agreement. And in 2017, the state convened a California Climate Change Symposium to bring together researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and community leaders to inform the next generation of research needed to support climate action.
The state has also developed education, training and technical support programs to work with local government officials and the private sector on adaptation planning and projects. Governor Brown created CivicSpark, a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program that places AmeriCorps Fellows in communities to build local capacity to address climate change. The California Department of Fish and Game hosts materials for teachers on its website. And the State Coastal Conservancy, Ocean Protection Council, and Coastal Commission all collaborate on the California King Tides Initiative, which uses photographs of the season’s highest tidal events (“king tides”) to educate the public about flood risks posed by sea-level rise.
(Research last updated: December 18, 2018).