Policymakers and Utilities Build Resilience to Wildfires, Other Climate Risks
During a week when the world’s attention was focused on combating climate change, Bay Planning Coalition hosted its annual Resources & Infrastructure Expert Briefing on September 17 which included conversations with policymakers, utility representatives, and scientists who assessed the emerging climate risks and the policy changes required to build a more resilient Bay Area. The Bay Area is witnessing an ominous spike in wildfires in recent years as a result of a warming planet, with 5 out of the 20 most deadly wildfires erupting in the last two years alone, and the state projects that wildfires could burn up to 178 percent more acres each year by the end of the century.
Panelists emphasized the many challenges in addressing wildfire risks, including the fact that there are 150 million dead trees in California that serve as potential fuel for fires, but the removal of just 1 million of those trees can take up to two years. Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) was a leader in securing $1 billion in the 2019-2020 State Budget to strengthen the state’s preparedness and expand capacity to respond to emergencies, but he noted that there are ongoing debates about how those limited funds are divided between wildfire suppression or prevention measures. Nuin-Tara Key, Deputy Director of Climate Resilience the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, also highlighted the state’s work to coordinate various levels of government to build a cohesive and coordinated response to climate risks. Bay Planning Coalition looks forward to continuing to work with state and local leaders to strengthen our region’s response to climate risks. Special thanks to EBMUD for hosting this important discussion.