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The climate is changing. We must design for climate change. Rising seas, warming temperatures, droughts, floods and extreme weather events threaten our cities and towns – and over time may trigger massive population shifts. New Urbanists are determined to help communities be resilient in the face of these challenges.
We will draw on timeless ways of building that for millennia have provided humans shared protection against the elements – and we are committed to implement new strategies and design tools adapted to local communities and their environments. That is the essence of CNU’s “Climate and Equity Challenge.”
It has long been clear that the dominant pattern of wasteful, sprawling land development and building is an economic and social catastrophe. It is increasingly clear that it is also a major source of climate arson.
There is an alternative – one that offers our best hope for both mitigating and adapting to climate change. We must return to building compact, integrated, walkable development and repair the damage done by building cities around cars instead of people. Walkable urbanism conserves resources and minimizes the scale and costs of public and private infrastructure. Compact communities create a better balance of jobs with housing, offer multiple options for mobility and sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Compact cities also conserve and regenerate land, forests, wildlife habitat, waterways, and wetlands, as well as reserving space for agriculture. New Urbanism also emphasizes multifunctional public space that can improve public health, reduce a city's carbon footprint, encourage active lifestyles, and create places where community can form.
Compact communities must also be diverse, inclusive and equitable ones. Our Charter clearly committed our movement to oppose “racial and economic segregation.” Hurricane Katrina and recent heat waves have laid bare the vulnerabilities of communities of color, the poor, the young and seniors. Only by building communities that work for everyone can we face future climate stresses and shocks with resilience.
At CNU 30, New Urbanists launched the “Climate and Equity Challenge” to engage all our members, chapters, affiliates and allies in these interconnected twin opportunities to build more resilient and equitable cities and towns across the United States and Canada.
In this we build on decades of research and practical experience. In 2017, our Climate Summit brought together some of the most visionary planning, architectural, engineering, academic, government and other leaders to lay the groundwork for action. They concluded:
- We have neither the time nor the resources to tackle climate change, racial and social equity, and public health as separate challenges. We must aim for solutions that address all three.
- As valuable as technological advances may be to the work on climate resilience, there are already many time-tested, low-tech approaches in the urbanist toolkit for diversifying transportation choice and reducing vehicle miles traveled.
- The environmental movement is realigning to address people's habitats as well as wild habitats.
- Compact, walkable places that encourage transit use are potentially the most comprehensively effective strategy for addressing climate change, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
- The magnitude of climate change is even greater than that of sprawl, and will call upon new urbanists and allies to step up their efforts to share best practices and collaborate across sectors.
We have begun a toolkit of resources for communities to draw on. Join us as muster all our imagination, will and creativity to identify projects, case studies, strategies and tactics to design resilient and equitable cities and towns.