Better Policy for Cutting Urban CO2 emissions

Energy-conservation mandates cut CO2 emissions much more than cities' compact-growth policies.

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Despite the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, many large metropolitan regions nationwide continue to pursue residential energy conservation and compact growth programs that reduce CO2 emissions.

To better understand the efficacy and feasibility of programmes targeting residential and transportation sectors, John Landis at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues derive CO2 emissions projections for 2030 for 11 US metropolitan areas under a series of policy scenarios; they vary the degree to which they impose residential energy conservation standards, promote compact growth, and encourage less automobile use. The programmes are further characterized in terms of their effectiveness and likelihood of generating opposition.

They show that residential energy conservation mandates across new and existing homes could reduce residential CO2 emissions in 2030 by 30%. This approach is also seen as being cost-effective, scalable and generally resistant to pushback. Conversely, compact growth programs could reduce CO2 emissions from cars by as much as 25%, but the reduction falls into the 0–7% range if not accompanied by aggressive efforts to reduce automobile use. These programmes have the potential to incur considerable political pushback.

Source: Nature Climate Change summary of paper in J. Planning Educ. Res. doi: 10.1177/0739456X17729438

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