Bay Area Council Blog: Energy and Climate Change Archive

ca climate

California Businesses Launch Major New Climate Resilience Initiative

The Bay Area Council today launched the “California Climate Challenge,” a major new initiative to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. The statewide challenge will attract resources from across the business community to support research, planning, and implementation of community-level resilience projects and policies focused on California’s water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as its natural ecosystems and the wildland-urban interface.

The effort is being jumpstarted with a $1 million contribution from PG&E Corporation to the Bay Area Council Foundation. The total amount raised through the challenge – and final details on its scope – will be announced in concert with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018. PG&E’s contribution will come from its shareholders, not its customers.

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. Protecting our homes and employment centers from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and wildfires, requires a top-to-bottom assessment of our existing resilience, and fresh thinking on how to best adapt.”

“We are already experiencing the reality of climate change in California,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. “PG&E is incorporating this ‘new normal’ into how we manage risks, plan, and invest our resources. But our collective response to extreme events such as the tragic North Bay firestorms must go beyond the immediate work of rebuilding what was lost. A focus on resilience will strengthen our communities for the future.”

“We applaud this initiative to fund a public-private partnership for climate resilience in California,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, a leading sustainability non-profit organization. “Businesses are concerned about climate risks, which have the potential to cause wide-ranging disruptions to their operations and supply chains. Corporate support for tackling climate change is only growing stronger, and companies clearly see the benefit of staying ahead of the game and doing their part.”

Need for Action

Climate change will push California’s already volatile weather system to further extremes, increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires, and drive longer-term changes such as rising sea levels. California’s recent drought included the driest three-year period in the state in 1,200 years, including the hottest year ever recorded. Conversely, Northern California just experienced the wettest “water year” in its recorded history, resulting in severe infrastructure damage at California’s largest reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010 and Cal Fire’s budget has increased by 45 percent since 2014 to address successive record wildfire seasons.

The California Department of Water Resources predicts the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for over a third of California’s total water supply, will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of this century, straining California’s farms, cities and ecosystems. On our coastlines, sea levels at the Golden Gate are projected to rise 6-13 inches by 2050, on top of the eight-inch rise measured in the 20th century. According to a study from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Bay Area alone could suffer over $10 billion in damages (about the same as Loma Prieta earthquake) during an extreme storm under current sea levels.

These and other changes have the potential to negatively impact the health and safety of communities throughout the state, and undermine California’s economic prosperity. California companies are integral to the sustainability of the communities they serve — and have a unique responsibility to help them prepare for, withstand and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.

Houses

REGIONAL HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION PLAN STARTING IN THE RED

An update to the Bay Area’s long-range regional housing and transportation planning roadmap, Plan Bay Area 2040 (PBA), has been finalized and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Since the first plan was approved in 2013, the region has produced just under half of the housing that was called for to keep pace with a healthy, growing economy. The Council argued during the first go-around that the housing targets badly underestimated the region’s need, so it’s likely the gap is even wider based on job and population growth. In addition to creating a massive affordability crisis, the shortfall undercuts the goal of PBA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by forcing residents on longer and longer polluting commutes in search of housing they can afford.

The regional planning agencies responsible for PBA have little authority to create housing themselves, but the Council is working to toughen state laws that compel cities to meet their housing obligations under the plan. Gov. Brown last week signed two bills by Sen. Nancy Skinner and supported by the Council that aim to do this. And, the Council is also working to encourage cities to adopt streamlining measures for granny or in-law units, also known as accessory dwelling units (ADU), under legislation we sponsored last year. Cities that have embraced the ADU streamlining measures have seen a dramatic surge in applications.

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FIRST IMPORTANT STEP IN ADDRESSING CA HOUSING CRISIS

California took an important first step today in addressing its massive housing crisis when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of legislation aimed at providing new funding, streamlined local approvals and stronger enforcement of existing housing laws. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined Gov. Brown, legislators and housing advocates from around the state at a signing ceremony in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point for 15 bills that included a handful for which the Council had advocated. SB 2 (Atkins) creates a $75 real estate transaction fee that is estimated to generate $250 million annually for affordable housing and SB 3 (Beall) authorizes a statewide $4 billion bond measure for housing that is expected to appear on the ballot in 2018. In addition, SB 166 (Skinner) and SB 167 (Skinner) add teeth to existing laws requiring cities to approve new housing. Much more remains to be done to open the pipeline of new housing the state so badly needs and the Council is already turning its attention to the next legislative session. With an annual shortfall of about 80,000 housing units on top of an estimated 2 million unit deficit, California has a long way to go before it closes the gap and begins to make a dent in its affordability problem.

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COUNCIL HEADLINES CHINA’S MAJOR INNOVATION WEEK PRESIDED OVER BY PREMIER LI KEQIANG

For over 10 years, the Bay Area Council has helped expand bilateral trade and investment between the Bay Area and the fast-emerging technology and innovation hub of Yangpu District in Shanghai, which is now the host city for China’s annual Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. And, last week, the Council led some of the region’s top clean energy innovators to participate in the major summit, including California Clean Energy Fund and startup incubator 500 Startups, where delegation members spoke at the week’s headline conference. In his keynote address at the Sino-US Green Innovation Forum, Council CEO Jim Wunderman highlighted the role the Bay Area plays in propelling the Yangtze Delta Region to a knowledge-based, hi-tech economy. In partnership with the Yangpu District’s government, the Council has helped over 50 Californian companies grow their presence in the Asian market.

Also this month a delegation of Bay Area life science companies and researchers traveled to China to explore business development and expansion opportunities. Organizations such as BIOCOM and Twist Bioscience expressed the unique benefits and opportunities that come with working in China – a process simplified by the Council’s China Initiative platform. Ongoing projects such as the Council’s Global Innovation Center in Nanjing and partnership work in Hangzhou will continue to expand economic opportunities between California and the Yangtze Delta Region as it continues to transform its industrial economy into a globally competitive, innovation hub. To engage in our China initiative, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

KQED

NEW POLL HIGHLIGHTS URGENCY FOR HOUSING SOLUTIONS

Results of a new statewide poll gave added urgency to the Bay Area Council’s efforts in securing Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on legislation to address California’s epic housing crisis. The survey by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that 25 percent of voters are considering leaving California because of skyrocketing rents and home prices fueled by a massive housing shortage. The poll found that 92 percent of Bay Area voters think that housing affordability is a serious problem, exceeding the 84 percent level statewide. Council CEO Jim Wunderman was a featured guest on KQED Forum on Thursday to talk about the Berkeley poll results and the solutions on which the Council is focused.

The Council is urging Gov. Brown to sign SB 2 (Atkins) and SB 3 (Beall), which would authorize a statewide vote in 2018 on a $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing and a $75 real estate transaction fee to support local housing, respectively. The Council also is urging the Governor’s signature on two bills by Sen. Nancy Skinner (SB 166 and SB 167) that add teeth to existing laws requiring cities to approve housing.

Listen to the KQED Forum segment with Jim Wunderman>>

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COUNCIL WELCOMES BEIJING MAYOR, SIGNS MOU EXPANDING ECONOMIC COOPERATION

The Bay Area Council this week was honored to welcome Beijing Mayor Chen Jining to the Bay Area as he attended a ceremony for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that takes a step forward for a possible new Council office in China’s capital city. The visit by Mayor Chen, former President of prestigious Tsinghua University and Chinese Minister of Environmental Protection, and a delegation of top level Chinese economic and innovation officials highlighted the Council’s deep and growing relationships in China as we work to expand bilateral trade and investment. The MOU between the Council, world-famous Zhongguancun Science Park, which serves as Chinese headquarters for such U.S. companies as Google, Oracle and Intel, and Council of Industry and Technology Alliances in Z-Park marked a significant step forward in our work to expand economic connections with Beijing. The MOU calls for exploring the creation of a new think tank, developing a research and development platform and establishing branch offices both here and in Beijing. Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined Wang Chengwen, Vice Chairman of the Council of Industry and Technology Alliances in Z-Park, and Zhai Lixin, Director General of the Administrative Committee of Zhongguancun Science Park, in signing the MOU. To engage in our China initiative, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

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MAKING THE BAY RESILIENT BY DESIGN

Against the backdrop of record-breaking flooding in Houston and the Caribbean, the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge on Sunday (Sept. 10) announced 10 winning design teams to propose innovative resiliency projects along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The winning teams were selected by an independent jury from a pool of over 50 applicants, and include several Bay Area Council member companies, including AECOM, Arup, Gensler, and Andy Ball. The winning teams are now spending the next few weeks taking whirlwind tours of the entire Bay shoreline, meeting with local officials and community groups along the way to get a better understanding of the Bay’s diverse needs, culminating in the unveiling of 10 project proposals in May 2018.

The Rockefeller Foundation selected the Bay Area to host the first Resilient by Design challenge following the region’s approval of Measure AA, the June 2016 parcel tax measure that raises $500 million over the next 20 years for wetland restoration and flood protection improvements along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The Bay Area Council played a leading role in the Measure AA campaign, and serves on the Executive Board of Resilient by Design. To learn more about the Council’s resiliency work, or about the Resilient by Design challenge, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.

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MAJOR NEW BAY AREA INNOVATION CENTER IN CHINA ANNOUNCED

The Bay Area Council this week joined leaders from the Chinese district of Gulou to announce the launch of an exciting new Bay Area Innovation Center in Nanjing. Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Dr. Micah Weinberg traveled to Nanjing to serve as a keynote speaker at the Golden Autumn Trade Festival where the new center was announced. The center will offer companies resources to access the region’s top tier talent and establish a bridge for startups to navigate between the Yangtze Delta region, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Discussions focused on Nanjing’s efforts to transition to an innovation economy through its connections with the Bay Area. With the help of the Economic Institute, as the leading think tank focusing on the key issues affecting the Bay Area economy, the Bay Area Innovation Center will serve as the platform connecting key resources such as training, services, capital and institutions to realize this vision. Over the past 10 years, the Bay Area Council has published seminal reports explaining the components of how our innovation ecosystem works at a global scale, and worked to guide Chinese investors looking to enter or expand in the Bay Area and California marketplaces. To learn about the Economic Institute’s upcoming report on Chinese Innovation or to get involved with Council’s China Initiative, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

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KEY CHINA PARTNER HONORED AS RISING INNOVATION STAR

A rising star in China’s fast-emerging technology and innovation sector that the Bay Area Council has been partnering with since our entry into the country 10 years ago has earned high praise from the country’s leadership. The Yangpu District of Shanghai has been named one of just three venues for China’s annual Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week conference in September. The Council is helping organize a delegation to participate in a Sino-US Incubator Green Innovation Forum on September 18 as part of the conference, which will be presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Yangpu’s hosting of the conference comes on top of its designation as a “National Pilot Innovation District” in 2010 and an “Entrepreneur and Innovation Model Base” in 2016. The Green Innovation Forum will be attended by Chinese government leaders and local enterprises from Yangpu, Shanghai and the Bay Area, including various incubators and accelerators, and emerging and successful business leaders. To join the Council’s delegation and to learn more about our work to expand economic opportunities in China for Bay Area companies, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

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Sen. Monning Addresses Water Committee on Clean Water Fund

It’s estimated that as many as one million Californians (10 times the population of Flint, Michigan) lack access to safe, clean drinking water, mostly in rural, economically disadvantaged areas. This troubling statistic undergirded the Bay Area Council Water Committee’s conversation with Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) hosted by member company Cargill on Tuesday (July 25). Senator Monning’s bill, SB 623, would create a new clean drinking water fund capitalized through a combination of new fertilizer taxes and fees on water utility bills. The Council took the issue under advisement until the precise bill language becomes available. The Committee also received a briefing from the Department of Water Resources’ Erin Mellon on the race against time to repair the Oroville Dam Spillway, which was destroyed during last years’ record rainfall. To engage with the Council’s Water Committee, please contact Vice President of Public Policy Adrian Covert.