Urban Land Use Reform as a Game-Changer

Smart growth and transit-oriented development in Arlington, Virginia (Wikimedia)

Smart growth and transit-oriented development in Arlington, Virginia (Wikimedia)

I love talking about this stuff, and now thanks to Kevin Drum I see the study I’ve been waiting for on urban land use and climate change. Kaid Benfield from the NRDC explains:

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. Here are some of the key findings:

— Smart growth and smart transportation choices can reduce the amount Americans need to drive – as measured in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) – by 10 percent per capita from 2005 levels.

— A 10 percent reduction in per capita VMT would reduce annual transportation emissions by 145 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTCO2) in the year 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 30 million cars or 35 large coal plants.

These reductions would equal approximately 6 percent of the 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The fact that these kind of moves are economically beneficial is hugely important. This is essentially greenhouse gas emissions achieved purely by using the land more efficiently. Using the land more efficiently is economically healthier than our current wasteful approach. So you’re not only reducing pollution, you’re making it possible to afford even more reductions. What’s more, this is purely a look at the transportation reductions in energy usage. In practice, intensively used land also leads to much more energy efficiency in buildings.