The Environment

Climate change, and its resulting impacts, are beginning to affect the Bay Area at a record rate. Rising sea levels, fires and record temperatures will fundamentally alter the Bay Area by 2050. In addition, natural disasters, such as earthquakes and weather events, are looming over us. It is not a question of if, but when, the Bay Area will experience these phenomena.  


Aerial view of blue waters and white waves crashing against the rocky shore.
Stinson Beach, Marin County.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Plan Bay Area 2050 will be the first comprehensive Bay Area planning effort to look not just at transportation and housing but also the potential impacts of sea level rise and earthquakes on the region. Past regional plans, such as Plan Bay Area 2040 and Plan Bay Area, have been particularly successful at protecting the climate and preserving open space and agricultural lands. For example, Plan Bay Area 2040’s per-capita carbon dioxide emissions reductions meet and exceed the Bay Area’s target for 2035, thanks in part to the region’s robust Climate Initiatives Program. Similarly, Plan Bay Area 2040 protects thousands of acres of land from development and fully achieves its ambitious open space and agricultural preservation target. 

Yet, these plans did not address the specific impacts of sea level rise, earthquakes and other natural disasters, nor did they propose plans for recovery. In the Plan Bay Area 2050 Environment Element, we will examine potential strategies to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and earthquakes, in addition to supportive strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural lands. 

Only through partnership with local, state and federal governments – as well as with businesses and non-profit organizations – will Plan Bay Area 2050’s vision of a more resilient and equitable region come to fruition. MTC and ABAG will develop a short-term Implementation Plan for how the region can work to take action to enact the strategies adopted in Plan Bay Area 2050. The Implementation Plan will outline tangible actions related to the Environment Element of Plan Bay Area 2050 that MTC, ABAG and their partners could advance to realize this shared vision.

Core Questions to Address in the Environment Element

  • Where should we protect from development?
  • What climate strategies are required to meet the Bay Area’s greenhouse gas target?
  • What strategies are required to mitigate impacts from sea level rise and earthquakes?

Work Completed

  • Revenue Forecasts. Under federal law, transportation investments in a regional plan must align with anticipated future revenues. Expanding upon this framework, MTC and ABAG also are working to identify current and future revenue sources for resilience investments – both for sea level rise and other natural disasters – to create a more comprehensive regional plan. Revenue forecasts will be used when developing the Blueprint in fall 2019 and winter 2020.
  • Needs Assessments. Needs assessments are conducted for specific funding categories to understand the financial resources required to achieve specific long-range planning goals. For Plan Bay Area 2050, needs assessments are slated to be conducted for resilience.

Upcoming Milestones

Winter 2020

  • Analysis of Draft Blueprint

Spring 2020

  • Analysis of Draft Blueprint

Summer 2020

  • Release of Draft Blueprint Results
  • Public and Stakeholder Meetings on Draft Blueprint  

Fall 2020

  • Refinement of Environmental Strategies
  • Release and Adoption of Final Blueprint

Point of Contact
Michael Germeraad, Regional Planning Program