Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Addressing Climate Change via land use issues

One of the great advantages of a community (like Rochester, NY) having a Climate Action Plan (CAP) is that addressing Climate Change is clearly spelled out for its specific region--what is happening, how it’s detailed, and recommended solutions. A CAP also offers the community and the media a precise, public strategy that, by virtue of its existence, holds our leaders accountable. If you know about a catastrophe and work out a plan to deal with it, then you’re morally compelled to act on your plan.

There’s a caveat, of course: If your government, say our federal government, is holding an irrational and irresponsible position on Climate Change, then no matter how specific, how detailed, how thoroughly and expertly a report (say, the National Climate Assessment ((NCA)) is, it will lie fallow unless you the public hold your government’s feet to the fire. (Even if the Trump Administration decides to ‘sit’ on the next NCA (this will be the fourth since the President Reagan era), the media and the public can still shout it from the rooftops.) Once you actually read the NCA, it’s more likely that you’ll be convinced of the science behind Climate Change and how it will affect our nation.  [Read my article Does Climate Change matter to you? (December 4, 2017) where I discuss the next NCA and how the Trump administration is actively ignoring it.]

Addressing Climate Change requires two critical strategies—mitigation and adaptation—that sometimes overlap but must be accomplished simultaneously. Humanity needs to bring down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the same time we must adapt to the GHGs we’ve already bloated into the climate system. [See my article I wrote in anticipation of the NYC People’s Climate March just before the Paris talks: Climate Change mitigation (People’s Climate March ==> Paris 2015) & adaptation: what’s the diff? (August 2014)

In the “Land Use” section of the CAP (pages 58 and 59), the City explains how our local government views both Climate Change mitigation and adaption: 

Mitigation:

“To achieve the goal of reducing GHG emissions, transportation-related reductions can be achieved through coordinated land use policies. In addition, there are multiple co-benefits associated with land use planning, including improved environmental health, public health, and economic vibrancy.” (Page 58, CAP)

Adaptation:

“In the context of adaptation, land use policy is critical to improving the community’s resiliency and ability to adapt to the effects of climate change.” (Page 58, CAP)

The core of the CAP on land use demonstrates how and why our government must lead efforts in this area. Governments can adopt land use policies, design regulations and zoning standards, adopt appropriate parking management and pricing policies, and help identify locations for best implementation.

The areas where land use comes into play in the CAP are: “Coordinated Land Use and Transportation Policies”; “Transit-oriented and Mixed-Use Development (TOD)”; “Redevelopment of brownfields and vacant or underutilized properties”; “Urban Agriculture”; “EcoDistricts”; and “Parks and Open Space Planning” (Pages 58 &59, CAP). Each area offers many opportunities for government to help shape actions that will make our region more likely to adapt to Climate Change and further reduce GHG emissions. 

Local groups and individuals can do much to amplify and accelerate the City’s efforts through neighborhood associations, environmental groups, and advocacy groups. Businesses, like the recent bike-share program and the recent rise of ridesharing apps, by their own successes and failures, also alter these land use components.

We cannot ignore the important role of government in addressing Climate Change, nor can we assume they’re going to do it without our constant vigilance. We must combine our own efforts and make sure our governments act on a scale and timeframe that will matter.  


Time passes. 

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