New numbers prove smart growth reduces CO2, cost-effectively
For the most part, the climate change establishment - whether in government, industry, or the environmental community - has ignored the potential of land use strategies to provide significant reductions in carbon emissions while also producing multiple other environmental, economic, and societal benefits. There have been grudging, passing mentions, usually at the end of some long report or other mainly about cap and trade schemes, power plants and fuel efficiency, but that's been about it.
Now, reducing power plant emissions and increasing vehicle fuel efficiency are hugely important strategies, as are getting more from renewable energy sources and green buildings, for that matter. But how's that working out so far, you might ask? The best that one can say is that the recession has driven carbon emissions down for the moment, and there is hope for incremental legislative progress. Meanwhile, the US continues to lag far, far behind Europe in controlling emissions.
Suddenly people who two years ago wouldn't give smart growth advocates the time of day are talking about things like transit-oriented development and growth boundaries (if they still haven't caught on to revitalization and walkability, unfortunately), and mainstream enviros are beginning to seek ways to increase neighborhood density instead of opposing it. People are looking to the coming federal transportation bill as a way to implement California's innovative smart-growth planning measures on a national scale. While you still won't hear much about any of this from the Really Big Thinkers on climate, it's happening in spite of them.
Which is a pretty long introduction to a new report that will make smart growth harder to ignore as a carbon-reducing strategy. In particular, the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) released a study last Friday documenting how comprehensive application of smart growth best practices and improved transportation choices can significantly reduce transportation emissions at a cost savings to society. The report makes a strong case for investing a portion of cap-and-trade revenues in smart growth.
For a summary of the report's key findings, go here.
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