Land Use & Climate Change

An October 2020 report by Smart Growth America and Transportation for America details  how our land use and transportation decisions are inextricably connected and impact climate change.  The Driving Down Emissions report outlines five strategies that can make a significant dent in the growth of emissions while building a more just and equitable society:

  • Getting onerous government regulations out of the way of providing more homes where people naturally drive less;
  • Making safety the top priority for street design to encourage more short trips, walking, and biking;
  • Instituting GHG reduction and less driving as goals of the transportation system;
  • Investing heavily in other options for getting around, and;
  • Prioritizing access to destinations.

As the report notes, “with transportation accounting for the largest share of carbon emissions in the U.S., we’ll never achieve ambitious climate targets or create more livable and equitable communities if we don’t find ways to allow people to get around outside of a car—or provide more housing in places where that’s already an option. “


Business as usual in the real estate industry is failing to keep up with changing demands and build resilient, affordable, diverse communities where everyone can prosper. The industry at large is risking not just another market crash but also becoming a central contributor to growing inequity, climate disruption, and the deterioration of American political and social cohesion.  The Great Real Estate Reset report, by Smart Growth America and the Brookings Institution sets out a new paradigm for land use development that is better for people and the environment.  


As we get deeper into the climate crisis, past land use decisions will have locked us into GHG emissions that will be difficult to abate.  Going forward, everyday land use planning and zoning decisions by local jurisdictions should be analyzed for their climate impacts.