Local Action in California: Fighting the Climate Crisis

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


With climate change becoming a growing concern and local regions experiencing individual consequences of climate change, local governments have begun to implement climate mitigation or adaptation policies. Mitigation refers to the effort to reduce greenhouse gases and adaptation refers to the adjustment to current or expected effects of climate change. Many of these local governments have faced challenges in implementing policy due to either limited resources or backlash from the community. Despite California’s world status as a leader in climate change policy, local governments face limitations when implementing climate action. In searching the literature, I found that local climate change policy in California has not been extensively researched so in order to have a better understanding of this type of local action within the state of California, this research uses publicly available data. In 2020, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research used an Annual Planning Survey to assess the progress of each local jurisdiction in the state of California in regards to several issues, including climate change mitigation and adaptation. I examined the responses from the survey to find overall trends and answer three questions. What does climate action look like as a whole in the state of California? How does population and median household income affect the achievements and resources of each jurisdiction? What are the key differences in county and city achievements and resources? I found that while most local governments in the state of California have implemented climate action, there are limitations in staffing for climate action and in the number of goals and policies that each has been able to implement. While there does seem to be a trend that suggests municipalities with higher populations or higher median household incomes have more climate action implemented, several outliers in each category at both those with higher and lower populations and median household incomes suggest that these variables are not what truly determines a municipality’s ability to implement climate action. Lastly, while the differences are fairly small, county level jurisdictions seem to lean toward adaptation policies while cities seem to lean towards mitigation policies.

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