Air Boards & MPOs Must Team Up To Reduce Carbon Emissions

<p>The key to meeting carbon reduction goals lies in reducing transportation emissions through changing land use. But to do so requires air resources boards and the many metropolitan planning organizations to play key roles.</p>
November 8, 2007, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Recently the Air Resources Board approved nine early action measures to meet AB 32 targets. "All laudable goals, but none likely to produce significant savings. The biggest producer of emissions is transportation, which accounts for about 40 percent of California's greenhouse gases."

"More fuel-efficient cars and gasoline blends that pollute less will be offset in the long run if we don't do something about the increasing distances we're driving.

The solution is simple: We need to drive less. But what will force us out of our cars? We could make it more expensive to drive by, for example, taxing gasoline more and increasing charges for parking. Those are politically unattractive tactics, yet they're needed."

"Part of the problem stems from desire to live in single-family houses with full-sized yards, which often forces us to live far from our jobs.

So, if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we're going to have to change our land-use policies. We're going to have to build residences closer to jobs, in denser communities and closer to public transportation. However, regional planning in this state is toothless because most land-use decisions lie with individual cities."

"The state has one key area of leverage to discourage sprawl. The state and regional planning agencies, such as the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission, control highly coveted transportation funding.

Enter state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who has written a bill (SB 375) that would reward land-use planning that reduces sprawl. Specifically, it would require the California Air Resources Board to set greenhouse gas targets for metropolitan areas. Then regional agencies would have to devise growth and transportation plans to meet those targets. And future transportation funding would be tied to meeting those targets.

Although Steinberg's bill might seem extreme to some, it's the sort of "tough love" that's needed. We can't talk about cutting greenhouse gases by 25 percent in a little more than a decade, or more than 80 percent by 2050, if we don't take significant steps to reduce our driving."

[Editorial note: SB 375 is now a two-year bill and will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in January, 2008].

Thanks to Steve Levy

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Published on Friday, November 2, 2007 in The Contra Costa Times
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