May 2008 Archives

With a furious round of meetings in Washington DC and in Sacramento, California, cap and trade for greenhouse gas emissions will be happening in some form in the near future. Cities and metros look like they may have a hand in trading allowances, which will mean a whole new landscape for sustainable land use and planning.

Congress is considering Lieberman-Warner and California, which passed AB 32 in 2006, is starting to lay out its blueprint for its own cap and trade system. It's been done before through the Clean Air Act for other pollutants, but this will be the Big Kahuna.

The goal is to reudce greenhouse gases by 66% (Lieberman) or 80% (California) by 2050, with differing baseline years.

Enlightened efforts in land use and planning, including transit dvelopment, should be the beneficiaries of credits for development, if carried out along the lines of the US Green Building Council's LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND).

There are many other details, but what is called in the cap and trade world a "downstream" transportation carbon-limiting mechanism, would provide regional and local government flexibility in taking actions to reduce their collective carbon output from transportation (the largest GHG emission category in California, with the largest part being trips made by cars and light trucks).

This is the scenario by which sustainable land use and planning allowances could provide funding for greener local government planning and land use to reduce skyrocketing American vehicle miles driven averages.

"Upstream"-only actions would limit emissions of carbon at the refinery through allowances based on the amount of fuel they sold, with that being the major point of economic impact for the transportations sector. Gas costs would go up unless the refineries absorbed the costs, and the risk is that cities and regional government might continue business as usual, which would mean continued vehicle mile driven increases.

California's efforts and findings as they relate to AB 32 land use regulations at the regional and local government level are mostly summarized in the following three documents: Haagen-Smit Declaration, Seascape Action Plan and in the LUSCAT draft report (warning 86-page document).

Look for an update in late June as the scoping plan for the land use subgroup for AB 32's Climate Action Team gets released by the California Air Resources Board and stakeholders.

The upcoming AB 32 land use release will have implications not just for California, but for our nation and other nations, too. Transportation has largely been unregulated under Kyoto, even in Europe, which has the world's largest carbon-trading market.

Photo by Flickr user vsf
As I surmised here first Tuesday, the death toll in Burma from Cyclone Nargis is now confirmed likely to reach 100,000, and famine and disease will afflict many of the survivors in the Irrawaddy Delta region. Aid can be sent here.
myanmar-hurricane-damage.jpgThe tropical storm that kicked off the Pacific monsoon season Saturday has now officially killed 22,000 (expect a much larger death toll, perhaps more than 100,000) and left an estimated 1 million homeless.

How much of the event's intensity was caused by global climate change can be debated, but I was struck by the "before" and "after" satellite view of the region.

This is what future climate-change caused sea-level rise projections look like in low-lying regions all over, not just in the Irrawaddy Delta--The Mississippi Delta, Chesapeake Bay, throughout earth.

Look at the difference between the photo on the right, after Cyclone Nargis, and on the left before the cyclone. On the right, hundreds of square miles are now under water as can be seen by the expanded blue at the bottom of the photo.

The frightening part is that this photo is not a projection. It's real, and it's what one million or more people are struggling to survive in at this very moment. Tens of millions more will be impacted by the resulting famine that results from the loss of not only farmers and their rice crops, but the permanently impacted center of the nation's agriculture.

With climate change there will be slow changes to some coastlines and low lying areas.

Climate change may also literally submerge overnight coastlines and river deltas, such as these densely populated areas just outside Burma's largest city, Yangon, which are now more part of the Indian Ocean than mainland Asia.

Photo: AP/Yahoo

About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

June 2008 is the next archive.

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