Publications Published in Journal of the American Planning Association
State and Municipal Climate Change Plans: The First Generation. Wheeler, S..
Journal of the American Planning Association:
Problem: Global warming has emerged as one of the new century's top planning challenges. But it is far from clear how state and local governments in the United States can best address climate change through planning. Purpose: As of 2008, 29 states had prepared some sort of climate change plan, and more than 170 local governments had joined the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) campaign that requires that a plan be developed. This article analyzes this first generation of climate change plans and seeks to assess the goals being set, the measures included or left out, issues surrounding implementation, and the basic strengths and weaknesses of state and local climate change planning to date. Methods: I conducted this research by analyzing planning documents as well as interviewing state and local officials by telephone. I analyzed the plans of three types of governments: all states with planning documents on climate change; cities with populations of over 500,000 that are members of the CCP campaign; and selected smaller cities that are CCP members. Results and conclusions: Most plans set emissions-reduction goals, establish emission inventories, green public sector operations, and recommend a range of other measures. Many recent plans have been developed through extensive stakeholder processes and present very detailed lists of recommendations with quantified emissions benefits. But emissions-reduction goals vary widely, many proposed actions are voluntary, few resources have been allocated, and implementation of most measures has not yet taken place. Most plans do not address adaptation to a changing climate. Officials see rapidly growing public awareness of the issue and general support for climate change planning, but reluctance to change personal behavior. Takeaway for practice: Future climate change planning should (a) set goals that can adequately address the problem; (b) establish long-term planning frameworks in which progress toward these goals can be monitored on a regular basis and actions revised as needed; (c) include the full range of measures needed to reduce and adapt to climate change; (d) ensure implementation of recommended actions through commitment of resources, revised regulation, incentives for reducing emissions, and other means; and (e) develop strategies to deepen public awareness of the need for fundamental changes in behavior, for example regarding motor vehicle use. Research support: This research was supported by the University of California, Davis Department of Environmental Design.