In the quest to protect the planet from climate change, one of the best remedies will be found right out our front doors. Our neighborhoods.

Although conversations about reducing greenhouse gases often turn to hybrid cars and other technical fixes, neighborhoods play a huge and underappreciated role in determining our impact on our planet’s climate. Neighborhoods either make walking, biking, and transit-use convenient options—they either bring destinations like stores, schools, and offices nearby—or they make it so that we need trips in cars and trucks, often long trips, for all of our daily needs.

Because the U.S. has built mostly sprawling neighborhoods in recent decades, the amount people drive has soared—from 4,000 miles per person per year in 1970 to more than 8,100 today. This leaves U.S. residents profoundly vulnerable to high oil prices and turns them into leading contributors to climate change.

Fortunately, the traditional mixed-use neighborhoods favored by members of the New Urbanism and Smart Growth movements are a convenient, low-carbon alternative. These tight-knit, walkable neighborhoods not only excel in their livability and ability to retain value, they make it easy for people to get around with far less driving. (Read just how much driving can vary between different types of communities.) They ease both the pain we feel at the pump and the problems we create for the planet.

The coming need for new housing—more than 50 million new units by 2030—creates a major opportunity to address climate change through development that serves the growing demand for livable, sustainable urbanism.

With its partners and supporters, CNU is mobilizing to meet this challenge:

  1. It is creating resources for you to share with others to help them understand the importance of neighborhood design and development to our planet’s future.
  2. It is partnering with the United States Green Building Council and Natural Resources Defense Council on the first national certification system for green neighborhood development, LEED for Neighborhood Development.
  3. It is endorsing a set of operating principles, The Canons of Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism, to complement and bring more detail to the vision of sustainable development in the Charter of the New Urbanism.
  4. CNU is committing to a goal of reducing carbon emissions through a major reduction in driving miles, targeting a 50% reduction in per capita VMT by 2030. Through the 2030 Communities Campaign, CNU and its partners will help provide development models to help communities create valuable, low-carbon development along with tools such as form-based codes and street-design alternatives to help them break down the barriers that encourage auto-dependent sprawl. Watch for more announcements soon about this work.

In the News

Learn more about the urban remedy with an introductory movie and slideshow and the 2030 Communities Campaign presentation by Doug Farr.
Contact your elected representatives and urge them to keep urban principles at the forefront of climate legislation. See previous sample letters here.
Use the Charter of the New Urbanism and the Canons of Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism in your everyday work.