Planning and Investing for a Resilient California – Guidance Document

Climate change impacts are already being felt in California and will continue to affect populations, infrastructure and businesses in the coming years. A resilient California is a state with strong infrastructure, communities and natural systems that can withstand increasingly volatile conditions. Executive Order B-30-15, signed by Gov. Brown in April 2015,  mandates that all state agencies must consider climate change and that they must receive guidance on how to effectively do so.

To support the implementation of this Executive Order, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research released last week “Planning and Investing for a Resilient California,” a guidance document outlining strategies to include climate adaptation in decision-making. Four Twenty Seven CEO Emilie Mazzacurati served on the Technical Advisory Group that wrote the report, which aims to provide guidance for state agencies to both plan for future climate conditions and also conduct planning itself in a new way.

The guide outlines four steps for integrating climate into decisions and then looks specifically at investing in resilient infrastructure, providing actionable guidelines for building a resilient California.

Four Steps to Planning for Resilience

1. Characterize climate risk

  • Determine the scale and scope of climate risk, ranking it as low, moderate or high impact.
  • Identify the vulnerability of impacted communities and systems, ranking them as adaptable, moderately adaptable or vulnerable.
  • Define the nature of the risk,  ranking it as temporary, limiting or permanent.
  • Identify the economic impacts of the risk, ranking them as low, medium or high.

2. Analyze climate risk

  • Determine which emissions scenario (RCP) to plan for: the higher the risk identified in step 1, the higher the necessary RCP scenario.
  • Determine complexity of uncertainty analysis needed: the higher the risk, the more important the uncertainty analysis.
  • If a project is in a current coastal zone, or a location that will be coastal by 2050 or 2100, planning must account for sea level rise.
  • Worst case scenarios should be identified for reference, but don’t need to be planned for.
  • Cal-Adapt is an interactive online tool, displaying climate impacts by hazard, with downloadable downscaled data.

3. Make climate-informed decisions, by using resilient design guidelines

  • Prioritize approaches that integrate adaptation and mitigation.
  • Prioritize actions that promote equity and community resilience.
  • Coordinate with local and regional agencies, including governments and community based organizations.
  • Prioritize actions that use natural infrastructure.
  • Base all choices on the best science.

4. Track and Monitor Progress

  • Develop metrics and report regularly to foster transparency and accountability.

Case Study: California Water Plan 2013

Several state agencies are already integrating climate change into their planning. The Department of Water Resources used a scenarios approach to capture uncertainty in climate, but also in demographics, economic change and land use. Examining 22 different climate scenarios, analyzing different temperature and precipitation possibilities and accounting for growth uncertainty, the agency looked at 198 possible futures. This allowed them to examine different possible management approaches and how they may reduce certain vulnerabilities. This quantitative estimate provided a range of future conditions and possible strategies for the agency to consider in its planning.

Infrastructure Investment

The state of California invests in infrastructure through funding of onsite renewable energy and telecommunications, providing financial assistance to projects not owned by the state and providing capital for all steps of infrastructure development owned by the state. Regardless of the type of investment, climate change impacts must be considered. It’s important to first determine if there is a way to accomplish a goal by using natural infrastructure. Assessing the potential for natural infrastructure can be done by examining the landscape, exploring Cal-Adapt’s projections for the area, analyzing potential co-benefits such as improved ecological services or water health and consulting with other groups. It’s important to compare the risk reduction and complete costs and benefits of the natural infrastructure approach with the non-natural alternative. Using full life-cycle accounting, that considers all of the costs from a project including building, operating, maintaining and also deconstructing, is essential for evaluating proposed projects. Prioritizing infrastructure with climate benefits and integrating the resilient decision making principles will ensure that investments are resilient and climate-conscious.

Download the full report.

This guidance document is a continuation of California’s ongoing leadership in climate adaptation, which includes Senate Bill No. 379 Land Use: General Plan: Safety Element, passed in 2015. This bill mandates that every city must include adaptation and resilience strategies in General Plan Safety Elements and Local Hazard Mitigation Plans by 2017. Read about Four Twenty Seven’s work helping cities in Alameda County implement these requirements and learn about our advisory services for adaptation planning, policy consulting and vulnerability assessments.