EIFDs can also be utilized to fund emerging climate change resilience strategies, such as Climate-Safe Infrastructure. This section will provide some background on and discuss how EIFDs could serve as a financing tool for Climate-Safe Infrastructure.
With the State facing increasing temperatures, extreme heat waves, rising sea levels, and longer wildfire seasons, it is imperative that California’s cities and counties are adaptive and resilient to this changing climate. The State has passed several legislative measures to incorporate climate change considerations in local planning, such as Senate Bill (SB) 379 which requires cities and counties to incorporate climate adaptation strategies in their Safety Elements and Senate Bill 1035 which modifies SB 379’s timeline so that data on climate adaptation in Safety Elements is regularly updated. Additionally, Senate Bill (SB) 1241 requires jurisdictions to consider fire hazards, especially in communities or unincorporated communities in the state responsibility areas that are in high fire severity areas. Assembly Bill 2911 strengthened SB 1241’s local very high fire severity designation areas.
These are strong legislative measures that are building momentum for climate change adaptation specifically; to learn more about climate adaptation best practices and General Element update assistance, check out SCAG’s SoCal Climate Adaptation Framework. Climate change resilience is another key strategy to implement when planning for climate change risks. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines “resilience” as: “The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions.” With resilience being another key component of preparing for climate change risks, this section will explore some rising resilience implementation strategies, such as climate-safe infrastructure.
Because infrastructure is one of the elements most impacted by extreme climate events, it is important that infrastructure is able to resist and recover from the risks of climate change. One strategy cities and counties can utilize to achieve this is integrating climate-safe infrastructure in their local infrastructure design. Climate-Safe Infrastructure is defined by the California Natural Resources Agency’s (CNRA) Climate-Safe Working Group as “infrastructure that is sustainable, adaptive and that meets design criteria that aim for resilience in the face of shocks and stresses caused by the current and future climate.”
Recognizing the importance of developing more climate-safe infrastructure as a strategy to increase resilience across the state, Assembly Bill (AB) 2800 was passed in 2016 which required the CNRA to form a Climate-Safe Working Group. The Working Group released a report in 2018 titled “Paying It Forward: The Path Toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure In California” that provides an overview of Climate-Smart Infrastructure and how climate change considerations can be integrated into the infrastructure design process, policy recommendations, and potential funding sources jurisdictions could utilize to fund these projects.
The Report outlines five key considerations the Working Group recommends should be made when planning for climate-safe infrastructure. These strategies, as outlined in the report, include:
- “Robustness – building to the protective level needed to ensure acceptable functionality and reliability over the design life of the infrastructure;
- Resilience – developing and practicing plans for the possibility of a situation when an extreme event exceeds the protective level and infrastructure fails, so as to improve and speed up the response and adaptive recovery;
- Adaptability – developing plans and integrating features into the design now that would allow structures to be adapted to a higher level of protection if necessary over time;
- Redundancy – developing plans now and implementing them over time to help infrastructure maintain functionality when it or parts of it fail; and
- Avoidance (new) or Retreat/Decommissioning and Removal (existing) – avoiding or removing infrastructure development from high-risk areas when the physical defense of infrastructure is no longer viable and the functionality of the infrastructure can no longer be assured.”
The Report also strongly recommends that community engagement be a component of the resilient infrastructure planning process to ensure that any climate-smart infrastructure improvements and future climate-smart infrastructure developments are equitable and benefit all communities:
“The following principles should guide equitable infrastructure planning, policy and investment:
- Include residents in decision-making;
- Serve underinvested communities without pushing out existing residents;
- Improve the environmental health and quality of life for residents of disinvested communities;
- Be equitably owned, financed and funded;
- Create good jobs and business opportunities for local residents; and
- Invest in workforce training.”
Integrating climate-smart infrastructure into local planning and infrastructure design is one strategy jurisdictions can implement to meet their climate resilience goals. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) highlighted some examples of climate-safe infrastructure in action in California, across the country, and internationally in a Story Map paired with a report titled “Why Climate-Smart?”, such as the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe’s microgrid to address power shutoffs in Humboldt County, the RE.invest Initiative to address stormwater management in Virginia, and the New Slussen project to address flooding in Stockholm, Sweden. These case studies demonstrate the various types of risks climate-smart infrastructure can address and how it can increase local climate resilience.
One of the challenges to developing and implementing Climate-Smart Infrastructure is funding. The Climate-Smart Working Group Report also outlines some funding strategies jurisdictions can pursue, such as Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts. EIFDs can fund adaptation and resilience projects including, but not limited to, those that address conditions that impact public health (such as decreased air and water quality, temperatures higher than average, etc.) and extreme weather events (such as sea level rise, heat waves, wildfires, etc.).
Although no currently formed EIFD is funding climate adaptation or resilience specific projects, some EIFDs are funding sustainability and restoration projects. For example, the proposed City of Redondo Beach/County of Los Angeles EIFD includes urban greening and wetland restoration in its proposed projects. The Redondo Beach EIFD aims to revert its now-closed AES Power Plant’s 50-acre site into open space and park development, wetland restoration, and private development. Although the Redondo Beach EIFD is not fully formed yet, it is one of the first EIFDs to prioritize green space and restoration in its projects. This is one example of an EIFD funding sustainability projects, and can lead to a future EIFD that will fund local climate adaptation and resilience specific projects.
Additional information and resources on Climate Change Adaptation, Resilience, and Climate-Smart Infrastructure can be found at:
- SCAG’s Southern California Regional Climate Adaptation Framework.
- Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group. “Paying It Forward: The Path Toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure In California” full report and supporting resources. California Natural Resources Agency. 2018.
- Rydge, J., Jacobs, M. and Granoff, I., 2015. “Ensuring New Infrastructure is Climate-Smart.” Contributing paper for Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate. New Climate Economy, London and Washington, DC.
- Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Resiliency Indicator Framework” December 2015.
- Union of Concerned Scientists. “Why Climate-Smart? What’s failing, what’s vulnerable, and what can be done?” November 2017.