E&E News: Here are 5 climate leaders to watch

April 19, 2018

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, adaptation advocate

California leads the country in terms of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but it needs to step up planning for warming's inevitable impacts, argues state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D).

"How do you organize your local governments, or your state government, so that you make changes to your transportation system, your agricultural system, to your city, to your planning, to your bridges, and then how do you pay for it?" he asked.

For Wieckowski, the light "really went on" when he attended the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. When the international coalition released draft agreements, he said, about 20 percent of the money dedicated was for adaptation.

He realized "we needed to do more in the state, not to take away from the mitigation," to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but that "we're going to need to adapt, and we're going to have to do it smart because it costs a lot of money."

Until 2015, California didn't allocate any money for specific adaptation programs. The fiscal 2017-18 budget dedicated some dollars: $18 million for low-income weatherization, $20 million for lands adaptation, $6 million for coastal adaptation and $11 million for research.

Wieckowski, 63, recently offered a bill, S.B. 262, to create a one-stop shop for adaptation policies in California.

His earlier measure, S.B. 246, set up a climate adaptation and resilience program with California's Office of Planning and Research. It's aimed at coordinating regional and local efforts with state strategies.

Cities need to plan together, Wieckowski said. In the San Francisco Bay Area, multiple counties are affected by sea-level rise, and actions taken by one could affect others.

One issue that must get addressed, he said, is making sure programs benefit all income groups. There shouldn't be a situation where a wealthy city or landowner can build sea walls that protect their property, sending rising waters to other locations.

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