The International City/County Management Association just came out with an report, Getting Smart About Climate Change, that’s a nice example of Principle #2, Place Your Bets. It uses case studies to illustrate nine strategies cities and counties are using to combat global warming:
1. Create more sustainable and resilient communities
2. Green the local economy
3. Engage the community in the climate change planning process
4. Approach climate change planning on a regional level
5. Address transportation through transit-oriented development and complete streets
6. Promote density through infill development and brownfield redevelopment
7. Adopt green building policies
8. Preserve and create green space
9. Plan for climate adaptation
One of the more interesting case studies was of Sarasota County, Florida, which has adopted the Architecture 2030 Challenge,
which is built around the goal of achieving carbon neutrality for county operations by 2030…
As staff members began examining what it would take to succeed on that challenge, they quickly realized that land use and community design were every bit as critical to carbon neutrality as energy use in public buildings. In just one example of how that realization translated into a different way of thinking about policy, county staff members looked at the amount of driving that residents were doing and saw that it was largely predetermined by the pattern of development. The task of reducing VMT became not just an issue of housing demand but also a matter of housing need: where does the county need to locate housing and what form does the housing need to take?
That insight, and the fact that folks in Sarasota care about “protecting the area’s natural systems, the county developed a 2050 plan that
proposes the development of “2050 Villages”–compact developments designed to preserve open space and reduce driving–as well as an initiative emphasizing strong transit connections and TOD.
to get a sense of what kind of carbon emission savings Smart Growth can offer, a few steps from the report:
Transportation accounts for one-third of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, more than any other single end-use sector. Between 1990 and 2006, GHG emissions from the transportation sector accounted for 47 percent of the increase in overall U.S. GHG emissions…
SMARTRAQ [Strategies for the Metro Atlanta Region’s Transportation and Air Quality] found that people living in neighborhoods that were rated as the least walkable drove about 30 percent more—and produced about 20 percent more GHG emissions—than those living in the areas rated most walkable….
The greater location efficiency offered by redeveloped brownfields can reduce VMT by 33 to 58 percent over greenfield developments….
Residential buildings account for 21 percent of all CO2 emissions. A detached single-family home uses 54 percent more energy for heating and 26 percent more for cooling than a multifamily home. Homes in compact developments use, on average, 20 percent less energy than homes in sprawling development.
Will all of this stop the climate crisis? No, because right now the efforts are too scattered and diffuse. But what if the environment movement and folks like Obama were doing everything they could to encourage and provide resources for these local experiments? We could make a hell of a lot more progress much more quickly than we can with all the energy being spent on a probably doomed effort to pass cap and trade.
Come to think of it, if Obama, the enviros, and Obama’s amazing social network of folks who organize to get him elected were focused on these kinds of climate crisis fights at the local level, it might create serious increase the odds of getting something serious done at the national level — corporations might decide he was worth cutting a serious national deal if only to slow down local efforts. These are the kinds of options we lose when we follow Krugman and other economists’ market-based framework.