March 6, 2009

State and Local Climate Change Planning in the U.S.: Implications for Transportation


Dr. Stephen M. Wheeler, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture Program, Department of Environmental Design, UC Davis


The need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has emerged as one of the new century’s top planning challenges. As of 2008 28 U.S. states had adopted some sort of climate change action plan, and more than 170 local governments had joined the Cities for Climate Protection campaign, requiring preparation of a municipal plan. This presentation reviews this first generation of plans, based on analysis of documents and phone interviews with officials. In the area of transportation, many plans seek to green state or municipal fleets or promote use of alternative fuels. But few initiatives tackle more fundamental factors that determine transportation emissions, such as land use planning, pricing of motor vehicle use, or availability of alternative modes of travel. Although officials believe that public concern has grown substantially in the last couple of years, the goals and policies in this generation of plans do not appear adequate to meet the challenge.

Biographical Sketch

Stephen M. Wheeler is the author of Planning for Sustainability: Creating Livable, Equitable, and Ecological Communities (Routledge, 2004) and The Sustainable Urban Development Reader (co-edited with Tim Beatley; second edition Routledge 2008), as well as numerous journal articles. He has served as an urban planning consultant, as Transportation Commissioner for the City of Berkeley, California, as editor of The Urban Ecologist journal, and as a lobbyist for environmental organizations in Washington, D.C. His guidebook Smart Infill, published by Greenbelt Alliance, won the 2003 Education Project Award from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association. In 2009 Prof. Wheeler was awarded the William R. and June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning by California Polytechnic University, Pomona. His other awards include the Chicago Institute of Architecture and Urbanism Award, the Munsell Memorial Award from the California chapter of the APA, and first place in the Infill category of the Housing the Next Ten Million competition sponsored by the Great Valley Center in California. Prof. Wheeler joined the Landscape Architecture faculty at the University of California at Davis in January 2007, and is also a member of UCD’s Community Development and Geography Graduate Groups. Previously he taught in the Community and Regional Planning Program at the University of New Mexico, where he initiated a Physical Planning and Design concentration, and the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. and Master of City Planning degrees. He received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. Prof. Wheeler’s areas of interest include planning for climate change and sustainable development as well as urban design, physical planning, and regional planning. He has recently completed a study of the first generation of state and local climate change planning in the U.S., and a study of the evolving built landscape patterns in six U.S. metropolitan regions.