Friday, February 24, 2012

Bay Area Climate Planners Respond to the New York Times

On February 17, 2012, the New York Times published an article by local Bay Area journalist John Upton entitled "Bay Area Climate Change Plans Lack Regional Cooperation." In it, the Joint Policy Committee (JPC), a multi-agency policy coordinating committee which tackles many regional issues, including climate change, is characterized as "dysfunctional" and "a waste of public money that should be disbanded" in the opinion of many local lawmakers and committee members.*

Today, Bruce Riordan, the Climate Consultant for the JPC, issued this response to Upton's article, pointing to some of the good local projects and agencies benefiting from Bay Area-level coordination (excerpted from an e-mail sent to local Bay Area climate planners):

A number of you have asked about our reaction to the New York Times piece last Friday, "Bay Area Climate Change Plans Lack Regional Cooperation." [...]

On climate adaptation/resilience—preparing our communities for the impacts from sea level rise, extreme storms, water shortages, etc.—is the Bay Area moving at the speed and scale required? No. Are we moving ahead on adaptation planning? Yes, and some of the best work is around regional cooperation. Here are three good examples.

The two-year Adapting to Rising Tides project is doing the hard work from Emeryville to Union City, learning how how cities, counties, special districts, community organizations, and the private sector should best work together to assess risk and create strategies on sea level rise and extreme storm events. Not flashy headline material, but BCDC, NOAA and the local partners are learning many valuable lessons that will eventually help all 50+ cities and 9 counties that touch the bay. By the way, have you seen the [California] King Tides Initiative photos? Fascinating.

Bay Area water agencies—we have a bunch of them for water supply, wastewater, stormwater, flood control, water quality—are currently developing the latest Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, will include a major section on climate impacts on water for the bay region. You can keep track of the IRWMP (aren't we good at catchy names?) [here at the website of the Bay Area Integrated Regional Management Plan].

The JPC's Bay Area Climate and Energy Resilience Project [...] is developing the commitment, resources and leadership that will be critical for long-term Bay Area-wide collaboration. To be completed in late May, our project will bring together the latest science with important learning on potential strategies, decision-making structures and financing approaches. The information is actually the easy part—as the NYT said we already have lots of plans and reports. We think the real work is creating great working relationships and trust, and building a structure for decision-making on the impacts like sea level rise and water shortages that MUST be made by all 101 cities and 9 counties working together. [...]

Finally, while we definitely need more coordination, not everything about climate adaptation must be done regionally. [There are] many [...] wonderful climate adaptation projects and stakeholders [happening] RIGHT NOW in the Bay Area. [...] We need to encourage more of this type of innovation and experimentation—a hallmark of the Bay Area's great history. Those of us in the "coordination business" need to focus 100% on where we can add real value to these efforts.

* Bruce Riordan responds specifically to this characterization by Upton noting "Scott Haggerty and a few others right now are calling the JPC 'dysfunctional' and a 'waste of public money that should be disbanded.' ... I would suggest it is more accurate to say that SOME local lawmakers and committee members... not MANY."

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