State Senate mulls over proposal to create a ‘Climate Resilience Officer’

Statewide office, if created, would oversee the planning and coordination of California’s climate adaptation strategies.

SACRAMENTO—A bill has been circulating on the floor of California’s State Senate since late January, seeking to create a new statewide office on climate change adaptation. The implementation of a plan seeking to address the way California adapts to predicted climate change could have a designated leader, and that person would be known as the Chief Climate Resilience Officer.

The new position, which would be created if legislators approve Senate Bill 168 (SB 168) and Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the proposal into law, would take on several responsibilities, such developing guidance documents and measuring adaptation.

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) introduced SB 168; the bill was co-authored by State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Thousand Oaks.

Whoever is appointed to this position, if created, would serve on an advisory council within California’s Office of Planning and Research; members of the council would serve in staggered four-year terms. The advisory council would also created as part of SB 168.

The language of SB 168 stated the creation of a Chief Climate Resilience Officer is necessary to help California avoid the “most sever impacts” of climate change.

“The state has been a leader in climate mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, and in the coming years, it is critical for California and the global community to continue and intensify those efforts in order to avoid the most severe impacts from a changing climate. However, because the global climate system changes slowly, impacts are ongoing and will inevitably worsen,” the bill’s language stated.

“In order to address the challenges posed by a changing climate, the state must invest in building resiliency and strengthening adaptation efforts at the state, regional, and local levels using the best available science and scale those investments using the best available policy, financial, and regulatory tools and mechanisms,” SB 168 continued.

Some of the duties of the Chief Climate Resilience Officer, if created, include:

  • Integrate adaptation and resilience policies into California’s sustainability roadmap through guidance documents
  • Coordinate climate change assessments with the Natural Resources Agency and State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission
  • Measure the state’s efficiency of climate change adaptation and resiliency
  • Build public and private partnerships
  • Identify vulnerable communities and regions, then develop and publish tools to help those communities address the vulnerabilities.

Advisory council members would be expected to have an expertise in climate change or climate science, plus knowledge in fields such as agriculture, energy, environmental justice, natural resources, public health, recycling, transportation, waste management or water.

SB 168 has already been through two committee votes. The State Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee voted 5-2 in favor of the bill on March 20; seven of the nine members on the State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee also supported Wieckowski’s proposal.

“We need a well-coordinated strategy based on the latest science to enable our state to be resilient enough to meet these and other incredible challenges,” Wieckowski reportedly said, pointing out California did not have a coordinated approach amongst state, regional, and local entities, when it comes to climate change adaption.

“The chief officer would be the statewide lead to manage this effort on adaptation,” Wieckowski continued.

A legislative analysis of SB 168 stated the proposal was endorsed by agencies and organization such as the city of San Jose, Climate Resolve, Ocean Conservancy, Sierra Club California, Southern California Association of Governments and Southern California Edison.

The bill does not yet have any filings of opposition.

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