Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting Smart About Climate Change

In recent years, the debate over the causes and potential consequences of climate change has evolved into a dynamic discussion of how government at all levels should respond. On the local level, policy makers have begun to recognize that many of the nation’s current challenges—such as climate change, public health, and dependence on foreign oil—have revealed how unsustainable traditional development patterns and the policies that support them can be.

As a result, a growing number of local governments across the United States are using smart growth approaches in their efforts to address climate change in their communities. In urban and suburban areas, in small towns and rural areas, and in every region of the country—from Keene, New Hampshire, to Sarasota County, Florida, to Sacramento, California, to Tacoma, Washington—local government professionals are incorporating smart growth principles into their climate protection plans.

The leadership is coming from small towns such as Carbondale, Colorado, and from larger metropolitan areas such as Kansas City, Missouri–Kansas, where local officials assembled citizens and the full range of stakeholders to develop creative solutions and build consensus around programs and strategies. ICMA's membership has called sustainability, which they define as balancing economic development, environmental protection, and social equity goals while maintaining financial viability, ''the issue of our age.''

Addressing climate change is a key component of creating more sustainable communities, and smart growth offers practical guidelines for communities looking to develop sustainably: it addresses new growth and development in a way that reduces their impact on the environment and their contributions to global climate change while supporting economic development and social equity–related goals. This report outlines nine strategies for successfully applying smart growth principles to climate concerns on the local and regional levels.