Social Justice and Equitable Adaptation: A Better Climate for Thriving Together

Climate change is already exacerbating race and class inequities that affect the prosperity, security and well-being of our families, neighborhoods and cities. These gaps will only widen unless our actions to address climate-change impacts put equity at the forefront. The opening of the 2018 California Adaptation Forum featured faith, community and tribal leaders tackling climate gentrification, social resilience and equitable economic development. This plenary set the stage for the rest of the Forum by focusing a spotlight on the intersection of class and racial equity with climate resilience and help foster a shared, comprehensive vision for transitioning toward a more equitable and resilient future.

Yana Garcia (moderator)

Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs | California Environmental Protection Agency

Yana Garcia was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in June 2017, to serve as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). Prior to joining CalEPA, Yana was an associate attorney at Earthjustice, in the California regional office, in San Francisco. Yana was also a staff attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, serving in Huntington Park and Oakland. Her legal practice areas have focused on environmental justice issues, civil rights, land use, toxics and chemical disclosure, oil and gas extraction, and crude transport. Between 2011 and 2012, Yana served as a legal research attorney at the San Francisco Superior Court’s Civil Division, Office of the Presiding Judge. Prior to practicing law, Yana worked on various environmental justice and civil rights projects aimed at achieving equitable access to clean air, clean water, and sustainable food and energy systems in the states of Texas, New Mexico and Massachusetts. She also worked for the White Earth Land Recovery Project and the Honor the Earth Foundation in Minnesota, where she supported the work of indigenous communities as they worked to reclaim access to their traditional lands, and sustain their traditional cultural practices.

Christina Snider

Tribal Advisor | Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Christina Snider, of Healdsburg, has been appointed Governor’s Tribal Advisor and executive secretary to the Native American Heritage Commission. Governor Brown established the position of Governor’s Tribal Advisor by executive order to bolster communication and collaboration between California state government and Native American Tribes. Snider is a member of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians and has served as an Indian Child Welfare Act representative for the Tribe since 2017. She was of counsel at Ceiba Legal LLP from 2016 to 2017, staff attorney at the National Congress of American Indians from 2015 to 2016, a legal fellow at the Wishtoyo Foundation in 2014 and a law clerk in the Office of Tribal Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012. Snider is a member of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians Housing Advisory Committee and the California Indian Law Association. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker

President | Ward Economic Development Corporation | AME Church International Social Action Officer

Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker is founding president of the Ward Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in Los Angeles, which has built, remodeled, and managed low-income housing in the city. Under her leadership, WEDC has initiated an intergenerational asset mapping project, engaged in community empowerment, activated a census count initiative for two de-centennial efforts, led in community education re the Affordable Care Act, and been involved in the construction of Chesterfield Square, the first retail mall in South LA in over a decade creating approximately 600 jobs. She pioneered in defining banking needs in the community as a member of the Bank of America’s Social Policy Board and the District 11 Federal Home Loan Social Policy Board and Bank of America’s first Advisory Board for community input. After more than 40 years in various professional responsibilities, she is now one of most highly respected and influential lay persons in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 2008, Jackie was elected the Director-Consultant of Social Action and has led in stimulating the social action/justice initiatives for the AME Church in the interfaith, ecumenical, civic, public and secular spheres.

Orson Aguilar

Executive Director | The Greenlining Institute

Orson Aguilar is the President of the Greenlining Institute, one of the nation’s largest and most successful multi-ethnic, advocacy and leadership development nonprofits. Greenlining envisions a nation where race is never a barrier to economic opportunity and communities of color thrive. Because people of color will be the majority of our nation’s population by 2040, Greenlining believes that America will prosper only if communities of color prosper. Under Orson’s leadership, Greenlining has become a leading voice in the movement to fight redlining by advocating for greenlining policies, particularly in the areas of the economy, the environment, health, energy, voting, and telecommunications. Orson’s leadership has been featured in major media such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Univision, La Opinion, NPR, Politico, The Huffington Post and many others news outlets. Orson’s work has been recognized by the New Leaders Council, Latino Leaders Magazine, La Opinion, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and several other prominent organizations. He is a board member at the California Women’s Foundation and also sits on Bank of America’s Community Advisory Committee.

Building Blocks for an Uncertain Tomorrow: Policymaking in an Age of Climate Risk

California is at crossroads: The growing tension between climate risks and other crises such as affordable housing, coupled with the broader difficulty of balancing economic opportunity and environmental stewardship will force policymakers, advocates and residents to define innovative new approaches for an uncertain future. The Forum’s second plenary featured policymakers with local, regional and state experience who discussed the complex terrain of building solutions that strengthen climate resilience while also addressing other acute challenges. Our panelists examined political considerations, emerging solutions and lessons learned for responding effectively and nimbly to emergent crises in the near-term while at the same time preparing for future risks over a longer horizon.

Jonathan Parfrey (moderator)

Executive Director, Climate Resolve

Before founding Climate Resolve, Jonathan Parfrey served as a commissioner at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (2008-2013). Jonathan is a founder and Vice Chair of CicLAvia, the popular street event, as well as the founder of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability, and the statewide Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation. He served as director of the GREEN LA Coalition (2007-2011), and as the Los Angeles director of Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Physicians for Social Responsibility (1994 to 2007). Prior to that, Jonathan founded and directed the Orange County Catholic Worker (1987-1993). He was appointed to Governor Schwarzenegger’s Environmental Policy Team in 2003.

Jonathan received the Paul S. Delp Award for Outstanding Service, Peace and Social Justice (1992), and was awarded a Durfee Foundation Fellowship (2002), a Stanton Fellowship (2010), and was appointed a Senior Fellow at the USC Marshall School of Business (2011). He is currently a fellow at the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities; a member of the State of California Climate Adaptation Technical Advisory Committee (2016); a member of the steering committee for the US Climate and Health Alliance (2016). In April 2016, he was received the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair’s Green Leadership Award. When he’s not at work, Jonathan likes to hang out with his wife, Nancy L. Cohen, his four children and two grandchildren, as well as going with friends on epic hikes and bike rides.

Louise Bedsworth

Executive Director | Strategic Growth Council

Louise Bedsworth is the Executive Director of the Strategic Growth Council, a state agency that brings together multiple agencies and departments to support sustainable communities emphasizing strong economies, social equity and environmental stewardship. Prior to joining SGC, Louise was the Deputy Director of the Office of Planning and Research in Governor Jerry Brown’s office. At OPR she led work on a number of collaborative research initiatives and climate change adaptation and resilience, including development of the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program and implementation of the State’s $70 million grant awarded under the National Disaster Resilience Competition. Before joining OPR in 2011, Louise was a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, where her work focused on climate change adaptation, local government action on climate change, and transportation. She has also held positions at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Redefining Progress, and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis. Louise received a B.S. in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering and Ph.D. in Energy and Resources, both from the University of California at Berkeley.

James Gore

Supervisor, Sonoma County 4th District

James Gore was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2014 after running a relentless, positive campaign built on inclusiveness and a commitment to own the future and deliver for the residents of Sonoma County.  As he embarks upon his 4th year on the Board, James is slated to become Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2018.  Beyond his work as County Supervisor, James is also serving on several county, regional, statewide and national organizations, including current service as: Vice Chair, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (incoming Chair for 2018); Board of Directors, Sonoma Clean Power Authority; Chair, Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District; Vice Chair, Eel Russian River Commission; Executive Committee, North Coast Resource Partnership; Executive Committee, California State Association of Counties (CSAC); Executive Committee and Board Member, Latino Caucus of California Counties; and Nationwide Chair, Resilient Counties Advisory Board (RCAB) for the National Association of Counties (NACo). After graduating from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agribusiness, James served in the Peace Corps and worked in the private sector while earning a Master’s Degree from George Washington University.  After receiving his degree, James secured an appointment from President Barack Obama’s administration as Assistant Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). During this service, James led nationwide conservation efforts at the intersection of agriculture, business, and the environment.

Mayor Jose Gurrola

City of Arvin

As an Arvin native, Mayor Jose Gurrola has spent more than four years on the Arvin City Council advocating and promoting best practices in public policy that will bring good paying jobs to the City of Arvin; attract new local businesses and build wealth from within the city limits; promote increased economic development and private investment; partner with educational institutions at all levels to improve opportunities for youth and young adults; increase public safety and the community’s cooperation and partnership with the Police Department; improve the City’s natural environment including air and water quality; and seek funding to improve the City’s roads, parks, and recreational opportunities for all ages. In addition to his service on the Arvin City Council, Jose also serves on the Boards of the Kern Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) and the Kern Council of Governments (COG). A strong advocate of youth services, Jose’s past experience also includes administering youth programs and public policy advocacy for the Boys & Girls Club of Bakersfield. Jose graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics from California State University Bakersfield. He also received the President Scholar award and is a member of Pi Alpha Alpha and Alpha Chi Honor Societies.

Investing in Resilience: Who Should Pay, and How?

Increasingly, communities are recognizing that adapting to climate change will require unprecedented levels of sustained investment. And the clock has already started. Large-scale deployment of capital and a comprehensive shift in how we define value and allocate scarce resources – at the state, local and federal level – is needed to support sea-level rise protection, wildfire management, ecosystem preservation and other climate impacts. The 2018 California Adaptation Forum closed with a forward-looking discussion about aligning financial levers with climate-adaptation solutions that foster natural and community resilience. Our speakers challenged the audience to think about how we can make smarter investments for current and future generations – from the transformation of our financial institutions and the deployment of emerging technologies to re-imagining how we can better define and incorporate risk and benefits into creating livable, equitable, climate-smart communities.

Kate Gordon (moderator)

Partner, Sustainability Practice | RIDGE-LANE Limited Partners

Kate Gordon is an internationally recognized expert on the intersection of clean energy and economic development. She wears a number of hats including Partner on the sustainability team of RIDGE-LANE Limited Partners; Senior Advisor at the Paulson Institute; and non-resident Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Gordon is perhaps best known for her work as the founder and director of the “Risky Business Project,” co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer, and focused on the economic risks the U.S. faces from unmitigated climate change; she continues to represent the project in public and private forums across the U.S. and internationally. A prolific writer, Gordon is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal as one of the paper’s “Energy Experts.” She is currently at work on a book focused on the economic transition of communities built around fossil fuel extraction.

Earlier in her career, Gordon served as Senior Vice President at the Center for the Next Generation, a non-partisan think tank based in San Francisco, where she worked on California policy development as well as large-scale national communications and research projects; Vice President for Energy and Environment at the Washington D.C.-based Center for American Progress; and Co-Executive Director of the national Apollo Alliance (now part of the Blue Green Alliance).

Gordon serves on the non-profit board the American Jobs Project; she is also a member of the Sustainable Investing Advisory Board at Brown Advisory. She earned a joint degree in Law and City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley (where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law), and an undergraduate degree in American Studies from Wesleyan University.

Kat Taylor

CEO & Co-Founder | Beneficial State Bank

Kat Taylor works in service of restoring social justice and environmental well-being. Currently, she serves as Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Beneficial State Bank, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to bring beneficial banking to low-income communities in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. The bank’s revolutionary ownership mandates that any distributed profit be invested in the low-income communities it serves and environment upon which we all depend. Kat is also a Founding Director of TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF), dedicated to inspiring a sustainable food system through ranching, training, tours, research, and school food and garden programs. TKREF owns the social enterprise LeftCoast GrassFed, raising humanely cattle and other livestock for the benefit of people and the planet. Kat serves and has served on many non-profit boards including the Harvard Board of Overseers, EcotrustGood Samaritan Family Resource CenterProPublicaCuriOdysseyInsight Prison ProjectKQED and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She graduated from Harvard College and earned a JD/MBA from Stanford University.

Shalini Vajjhala

Founder & CEO | re:focus partners

Shalini Vajjhala is Founder & CEO of re:focus partners, a design firm dedicated to developing integrated resilient infrastructure solutions and innovative public-private partnerships, including the RE.invest Initiative and the RE.bound Program. Prior to starting re:focus, Shalini served as Special Representative in the Office of Administrator Lisa Jackson at the US EPA, where she led the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of International & Tribal Affairs, and Deputy Associate Director for Energy & Climate at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She joined the Obama Administration from Resources for the Future, where she was awarded a patent for her climate adaptation mapping work. Shalini received her PhD in Engineering & Public Policy and B.Arch in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently a non-resident senior fellow with The Brookings Institution and a co-founder of The Atlas Marketplace.

Teveia Barnes

Executive Director | California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank

Teveia Barnes was appointed by Governor Brown as the Executive Director of the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) on July 12, 2013. IBank’s mission is to finance infrastructure, economic expansion, clean energy and water projects and to promote small business in the State of California through the Small Business Finance Center. Ms. Barnes is dedicated to IBank promoting a healthy climate for job creation and retention, contributing to a strong economy and improving the quality of life in California communities. IBank’s statutory powers include the authority to issue tax exempt and taxable revenue bonds, make loans and provide credit enhancements for a wide variety of infrastructure, clean energy, water and economic expansion projects to state and local governments, universities, schools and hospitals. As IBank approaches $40 billion in infrastructure and economic expansion financings, IBank continues to be motivated to assist state and local municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals meet the financing challenges faced by infrastructure, clean energy, water and other projects throughout California.

Prior to joining the IBank, Ms. Barnes was commissioner at the California Department of Financial Institutions where she was the chief state regulator of depository financial institutions responsible for the licensing, examination and supervision of such financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, savings associations, trust companies, foreign banking organizations, and money transmitters. Barnes was a partner at the law firm of Foley and Lardner LLP for over 7 years with finance and regulatory experience primarily representing banks and other financial institutions. Ms. Barnes was executive director and general counsel at the Bar Association of San Francisco from 2001 to 2003. Barnes worked at the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association from 1986 to 1999 in multiple positions, including associate general counsel and senior vice president, where she was a member of the Policy Committee and represented BancAmerica Securities Inc. and the Investment Management, Real Estate, Corporate Trust and Commercial Divisions of Bank of America.

Ms. Barnes has been active long in professional and civic affairs. She served as executive director and volunteer lawyer at Lawyers For One America promoting the increase of diversity and pro bono legal services in the legal profession as part of President Clinton’s One America initiative. She served on the boards of directors for the U.S. Bank Advisory Board of Northern California, Rice University, On Lok, Inc., American Conservatory Theatre and Hospice by the Bay. Ms. Barnes earned a Juris Doctorate from New York University School of Law in 1978 and received her BA degree in economics, political science and German studies from Rice University in 1975, where she was an Arthur B. Cohn Scholar.

Sanjay Wagle

Co-Founder and Managing Director | The Lightsmith Group

Sanjay Wagle is co-founder and Managing Director of The Lightsmith Group. He has over 20 years of experience in investing, company management, and government focused on clean energy, resources, and climate. Sanjay’s investing experience includes eight years in venture capital and growth equity. He was the first Principal in the CleanTech Group at VantagePoint Capital Partners, which invested over $1 billion in 25 companies in electric vehicles (most notably Tesla Motors), solar, storage, smart grid, green building, water, and sustainable agriculture. Earlier in his career, Sanjay served as an Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation, where he led financings of private sector transport, power, and water infrastructure projects in developing countries.

Sanjay has served in senior executive roles with several sustainable technology companies, including: Diamond Foundry, a technology company making flawless, jewelry-grade diamonds in an ethical and sustainable manner; Ubiquiti Networks (Nasdaq: UBNT), a publicly listed global technology company where he co-led the launch of a new worldwide solar business; Soligent, the largest US solar distributor with over $200 million in revenues, where he led the acquisition and integration of Soligent’s #2 competitor; and TerraVia (Nasdaq: TVIA), a biotechnology company converting plant-based feedstocks into tailored, high-value food oils.

In the first three years of the Obama Administration, Sanjay served as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), overseeing the implementation of $15 billion in programs for clean energy and climate, including investments in renewable energy, electric vehicles, battery manufacturing, industrial efficiency, and biofuels. Sanjay also helped in the formation of DOE’s advanced research agency (ARPA-E) and served as the agency’s first Associate Director for Commercialization, founding and running a “technology-to- market” program to commercialize high-risk, high reward energy technologies funded by the agency. Sanjay holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley.

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