Reducing Vehicle Emissions through Land Use Planning

Addressing Climate Change at the State and Local Level: Using Land Use Controls to Reduce Automobile Emissions (23 page pdf, Sustainability 2010, 2(6), 1742-1764. June 18,2010)

Many years of building a vast highway infrastructure combined with land use planning that encourages unsustainable urban sprawl and a car dependent society which in turn has turned cities into congested, polluted areas with major health impacts. The article under review today examines changes in land use regulation in California that are aimed at lowering greenhouse gas levels by reducing vehicle emissions.

Key Quotes:

“American suburbs as afflicted with the BANANA syndrome (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone)… The automobile-dependent city uses too much energy compared to alternative land-use patterns and is a major source of air pollution

“‗[o]ne of the most important environmental lessons evident from past experience is that environmental damage often occurs incrementally from a variety of small sources … perhaps the best example is air pollution, where thousands of relatively small sources of pollution cause a serious environmental health problem‘ [77]. It is becoming apparent that greenhouse gases and climate change are surpassing simple air pollution as the quintessential incremental killer of our environment.”

“Under California‘s Administrative Code, a cumulative impact assessment must contain ‗either a list of past, present, and reasonably anticipated future projects, including those projects outside the agency‘s control, which produce related or cumulative impacts or a summary of such projections contained in an adapted general plan or related planning document which evaluates regional or area-wide conditions,‘ plus a summary and analysis of the expected effects The provision suggests that a cumulative impact assessment must only take into account discernible projects or projections contained in a land-use and development plan. “

“The duty to use land-use controls to curb greenhouse gas emissions is now mandatory. The new statute sets regional roll-back targets and then mandates local implementation .. This is the first major United States legislation that seeks to reverse urban sprawl to decrease the increase of greenhouse gas emissions“

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