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California Makes Advances in Climate Adaptation Planning - New Legislation and Safeguarding California Implementation Plans
While media attention focused on the Legislature’s debate about long-term (post-2020) greenhouse gas reduction targets, California made important advancements in climate adaptation planning with less fanfare. Three climate adaptation-related bills were signed into law and the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) partnered with other agencies to prepare the Draft Implementation Action Plans for the state’s climate resilience strategy. If you are interested in climate adaptation planning, these are important new developments. Please see the summary of each below, including helpful hyperlinks.

Erik de Kok, AICP
Sustainability Practice Leader
916.842.3164 / vCard


SB 379 Calls for Safety Element Updates to Address
Climate Impacts

SB 379 establishes the first statutory mandate to address climate adaptation in local general plans. It adds provisions to Government Code Section 65302 that require the safety element to be “reviewed and updated as necessary to address climate adaptation and resiliency strategies applicable to the city or county.” The update shall include: a vulnerability assessment; adaptation and resilience goals, policies, and objectives; feasible implementation measures; and reference to or attachment of a separate adaptation plan, if it fulfills these requirements. The deadlines for the safety element update provide lead time to cities and counties.  The update is due at the time of a jurisdiction’s first FEMA Local Hazard Mitigation Plan adopted after January 1, 2017, or if no such FEMA plan has been adopted, after January 1, 2022. The bill also references specific sources of useful climate information to consult, such as Cal-Adapt.

Draft Adaptation Action Plans with a New Sector: Land Use and Community Development

California released its first comprehensive climate adaptation plan in 2009 and updated it with the 2014 report, Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk. As its next step, CNRA has now released the Draft Implementation Action Plans. They describe how California will build the resilience of residents, communities, and ecosystems to emerging climate change impacts. Forty-five authors contributed to action plans covering ten sectors. The plans represent a blueprint for actions recommended in the 2014 report, as called for in Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-30-15 (April 2015).  Notably, one of the sectors is new, Land Use and Community Development. The sector highlights how integrated local and regional approaches are crucial for building community resilience. CNRA is accepting public comments on the draft plans until November 30, 2015. Comments should be sent to


AB 1482 and SB 246 Reinforce Coordinated
Adaptation Programs

Two other bills signed into law will help California pursue better coordinated efforts to address climate change impacts. SB 246 establishes the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program and calls for the Office of Emergency Services, Office of Planning and Research, and CNRA to coordinate when updating the state’s adaptation strategy report and the Local Adaptation Planning Guide. AB 1482 requires CNRA to update the state’s resilience strategy in coordination with other relevant agencies to meet objectives pertaining to climate vulnerabilities. It also directs the Strategic Growth Council to coordinate existing grant programs that address climate change and adaptation across state and local agencies. Together, AB 1482 and SB 246 will help strengthen state and local planning and coordination to better cope with climate change effects.

If you have any questions about these climate adaptation planning advancements, please contact Ascent’s Sustainability Practice Leader, Erik de Kok, AICP.
Ascent Environmental is a dynamic environmental, natural resources, and planning consultancy with offices in Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Bay Area, and San Diego. We offer our extensive CEQA and NEPA, climate adaptation and GHG reduction planning, and biological sciences experience with the goal of providing personal service and high-quality results to our clients on their most important projects. We are certified as a small business and women-owned business enterprise.

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