ULI Report Links Development and Climate Change
Compact, mixed-use development can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions that may contribute to global warming, according to a new report produced by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
“Curbing emissions from cars depends on a three-legged stool: improved vehicle efficiency, cleaner fuels and a reduction in driving,” said lead author Reid Ewing, research professor at the National Center for Smart Growth Research & Education, University of Maryland. “The research shows that one of the best ways to reduce vehicle travel is to build places where people can accomplish more with less driving.”
The report, “Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change,” is being jointly published by ULI, Smart Growth America, the Center for Clean Air Policy and the National Center for Smart Growth Research & Education. Ewing’s co-authors include Steve Winkelman of the Center for Clean Air Policy, Keith Bartholomew of the University of Utah, Jerry Walters of Fehr & Peers Associates and Don Chen of Smart Growth America.
“Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) need to be reduced,” because one-third of carbon dioxide emissions come from cars and trucks, said William Hudnut III, who holds the Joseph C. Canizaro Chair for Public Policy at ULI.
“We have to move toward more compact land development,” added Hudnut, who moderated a press conference announcing the report at the ULI headquarters in Washington, D.C. “We recognize that 80% of that development may be on the suburban fringe.”
“Since 1980, VMT has increased three times faster than population,” Ewing said. “One reason is that we’re more affluent. But the main reason is our patterns of development. Sprawl has become the dominant pattern. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but we own 30% of the vehicles and emit 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide. We drive so much farther than any other country.”
Comapct development could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 85 million metric tons in 2030, said Winkelman, one of the study’s co-authors.
“We support the idea of encouraging more compact, mixed-use development,” said Debra Bassert, NAHB’s assistant staff vice president for land development policy. “Local governments need to be more flexible in allowing such development to occur.”
However, the report also calls for federal climate change legislation that would require regional transportation plans to pass a conformity test for carbon dioxide emissions similar to conformity requirements for other pollutants.
“We haven’t had time to read the full report, but from our initial review we have concerns that the recommendations on conformity could be at cross purposes with housing affordability and consumer choice,” Bassert said.
Don Chen of Smart Growth America argued that there is a large and underserved market for smart growth development.
“If you give people the ability to do more stuff while driving less, they’ll take that choice,” Chen said.
For more information, e-mail Blake Smith at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8583.