Debbie Raphael

Debbie Raphael

Contributor, SDGs Contributor

Debbie Raphael is the Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment and believes that cities can take bold action to address environmental harm. A scientist by training and public servant by profession, Debbie has spent most of her career working in government to ensure that everyone has an equal right to a safe and healthy environment.

At the City of Santa Monica and City of San Francisco, Debbie crafted first-in-the-nation policies on toxics reduction, green building, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), healthy nail salons, and championed the precautionary principle — a decision-making framework that protects the public from exposure to harm even in the face of scientific uncertainty. In 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed Debbie as the Director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). In her tenure with DTSC, Debbie implemented the state’s groundbreaking Safer Consumer Products Law to better regulate which chemicals can be used in products sold or manufactured in California.

As Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, Debbie is focusing on leading the City’s efforts on tackling climate change and ensuring a healthy environment for all. She has led the most significant update to the City’s recycling and composting program in over 15 years, the launch of an industry funded safe disposal program for unused medicines, and pioneering policies for rooftop solar panels and electric vehicle charging capacity in all new construction. In partnership with the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and fellow City departments, Debbie has helped steer the city towards greater greenhouse gas emission reductions, including setting a new audacious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Debbie is a frequent keynote speaker at international climate conferences and a national spokeswoman on environmental issues. She currently serves as the President of the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network, an External Advisor to the Global Climate Leadership Council of the University of California Office of the President, and a Board Member of Strategic Energy Innovations. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s Degree in Physiological Plant Ecology from UCLA.