a panel discussion yesterday at the Copenhagen climate summit, American
policymakers and transit experts delivered a clear message: Walkable
urban development must be part of any effective plan to reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to the magic of live webcasts, I can
relay a few highlights for Streetsblog readers.
directing future development toward walkable urbanism, the climate
impacts of sprawl will overwhelm other efforts to curb greenhouse gas
emissions, said Robert Cervero, a professor specializing in
transportation and land use policy at UC Berkeley. "Urban development
patterns have a significant role to play in carbon reduction," Cervero
told the audience. "Otherwise we’ll just get knocked back by land-use
patterns. Sustainable urbanism has to be part of the equation."
benefits of walkable development extend far beyond the efficiencies of
trains, buses, and bikes compared to cars. As journalist (and befuddling congestion pricing critic) David Owen has documented superbly, city dwellers use far less energy to, for instance, heat homes than suburbanites.
attached some rough numbers to these "embedded energy savings." While
transit investment alone can achieve a 10 to 20 percent reduction in
America’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions, he said, factoring in
the embedded energy savings of walkable development boosts that figure
to 30 percent. That’s 30 percent compared to present-day emissions
levels. The reduction could reach as high as 60 percent, Cervero added,
compared to the level of per-capita emissions that would result from
continuing business-as-usual sprawl-inducing policies.