FAQ: Greenbelt Alliance’s New Climate Vision

What is Greenbelt Alliance’s new mission?

We educate, advocate, and collaborate to ensure the Bay Area’s lands and communities are resilient to a changing climate. 

What is Greenbelt Alliance’s new vision for the future of the Bay Area?

We envision a Bay Area of healthy, thriving, resilient communities made up of lands and people that are safe during climate disasters and recover quickly from wildfire, floods, and drought, where everyone is living with nature in new and powerful ways for generations to come. 

How is Greenbelt Alliance implementing this new mission and vision?

Greenbelt Alliance is now organizing its regional land-use policy advocacy work by 3 new Program Areas

  1. Climate Risk Research Program
  2. Accelerating Climate Resilience Program
  3. Climate SMART Development Program

Why is the organization making this shift right now?

Simply put, the Bay Area isn’t ready for climate change. So, Greenbelt Alliance is educating people, advocating for bold change, and collaborating to address the climate crisis now. 

For a longer answer, Greenbelt Alliance is building on its legacy as an environmental land-use policy organization addressing the Bay Area’s most pressing challenges. When we were founded, those challenges were things like sprawl development. Now, today’s challenges are the detrimental impacts of climate change; the need for development in areas not placing communities in harm’s way of wildfires, floods, and droughts; and the acute need for local and regional action now. By connecting the opportunities in land-use policy to address the climate and housing crises, Greenbelt Alliance is boldly responding to the problems the Bay Area is grappling with the most today, through the power of nature and the role of open space protection and urban development.

What ARE the new “buzzwords” to incorporate into conversation when talking about the new direction at Greenbelt Alliance now?

Climate resilience; Resilient communities

Adaptation to wildfire, flooding, drought

Climate-smart development

Nature-based solutions (to climate change)

I’d like to get specific: how do I talk about the concrete things the organization is doing?

There are 2 ways to share specifics about the new work: 

First, we’re talking about the problems we are solving with our new Program Areas:

  1. Problem we are solving: The Bay Area is grappling with how to prepare for overlapping climate disasters.
    1. Through our Climate Risk Research program, Greenbelt Alliance is identifying climate risks and nature-based resilience opportunities to drive the bold climate leadership where we need it the most, right now.
  1. Problem we are solving: The Bay Area is vulnerable to climate change, and our low income and communities of color are disproportionately impacted. Many communities just don’t have the resources, staff, funding, or incentives to take action.
    1. Through our Accelerating Climate Resilience program, Greenbelt Alliance is delivering innovative nature-based policy solutions for how we use our land and grow our cities to be more resilient, living with the power of nature in an equitable way.
  1. Problem we are solving: The Bay Area lacks the local support to make climate-smart development happen which would address the housing crisis and prepare for climate change in an equitable way.
    1. Through our Climate SMART Development program, Greenbelt Alliance is advocating for climate SMART––Sustainable, Mixed, Affordable, Resilient, Transit-Oriented––development to create resilient communities in balance with nature for current and future residents.

Second, we’re talking about the key Projects we are undertaking (these are a subset of total projects we are working on):

  • Resilience Hotspots Research (report): We are compiling existing data to analyze the Bay Area’s highest climate risk areas, as well as the natural and working lands that provide the most climate resilience benefits. This builds off our previous “At Risk” report, and will similarly produce maps and recommendations in a published final report in 2022. 
  • Resilience Playbook (guidebook): We are creating easy-to-use guidelines documenting climate-resilient land-use policies and template language to build capacity for cities and counties in their local planning.
  • Greenbelts & Wildfire Research (white paper): We are conducting original research documenting the role of greenbelts as policy tools for wildfire resilience, citing case study examples, like the town of Windsor.
  • Climate SMART Development Endorsement program: We actively promote specific development projects and neighborhood plans through an endorsement program to show our support for development that creates resilient communities in balance with nature for current and future residents.

What exactly do we mean by “climate resilience”?

In the face of climate change, we work to ensure that communities and people can respond to, adapt, and recover from flooding, fire, and droughts in order to thrive in the places they live, work, and play. Staying safe during climate disasters. Connecting with open spaces in new and powerful ways. Suffering less and recovering quickly after the next wildfire, flood, or drought. All thanks to equitable solutions drawing on the powerful role of nature. To us, these are the outcomes from building climate resilience.

Is our geographical focus changing?

Nope. Greenbelt Alliance is still working at the regional level across the 9 counties of the Bay Area, while also taking our work locally via on-the-ground advocacy efforts in specific cities and counties. 

What is shifting is that each of our Program Areas will be brought to life across geographical boundaries. We are no longer siloing North Bay work versus South Bay work; rather, all Program staff at Greenbelt Alliance are advancing components of Climate Risk Research, Accelerating Climate Resilience, and Climate SMART Development, sharing across geographical boundaries best practices, while working in key locations in the North Bay, South Bay, and East Bay.

Everyone is talking about racial equity. Help me talk about how equity is showing up for Greenbelt Alliance right now?

At Greenbelt Alliance, we believe that local and regional policy decisions must prioritize attention, sustained resources, and solutions for the Bay Area’s low-income communities of color, which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These are also communities that have traditionally been excluded––deliberately––from large scale investment and planning decision-making.

Advancing equitable climate resilience is part of advancing our society’s call for racial justice. Greenbelt Alliance is increasing our focus on ensuring our most vulnerable communities are centered in regional and local efforts to build climate resilience. Greenbelt Alliance is driving our climate advocacy by placing equity and anti-racism front and center. We commit to guiding our work through this equity lens.

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